Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Should Canada be broken up?

Was the title misleading enough? This isn't an article supporting Qu├ębecois or Western secession, but one supporting breaking the Great White North into Canada-West and Canada-East for the World Junior tournaments.*

You may be asking; Amrit, why would you even dream of this? You may also be planning a fire-bombing of my house. I would ask you not to do the second, but I will answer the first question.

First off, we're too dominant. Yes, it's possible to be too dominant. Since 1988, Canada has won 13 of its total 15 gold medals. In other words, teams other than Canada have only won nine times. NINE! Now, you may be saying, "Amrit, that just means we're awesome, stop your damn whining!" But I contend that this dominance is bad for the sport.

While Canada pours significant amounts of money into its junior and development programs, that spending isn't really justifiable for anyone else... because they don't have the results to back up any extra investment. Russia won three bronze medals in a row between 2005-2007, and has won the last two bronze medals. Do you think the Russians are going to put more investment into a program that doesn't seem capable of pulling off a gold medal win?

Further, support for junior hockey in places whose names don't start with "Ca" and end with "da" goes down. As sports fans in Ottawa show time and time again, it doesn't matter how much your team tries, or the style of hockey they put on the ice, if you're not winning, no one cares.

Seriously, take the Czech Republic. Arguably a hockey country (anyone who's been to the tourist area in Prague knows what I'm talking about), they have a successful domestic league and a solid history in the World Juniors, having won 14 medals as the combined Czech Republic-Czechoslovakia (but only three in the non-Communist era). We've all seen the strength of the Czechs in the NHL, why doesn't it translate into the World Juniors? Well, when they get beaten by scores like 8-1 (Canada v Czech Republic, their worst loss in the tournament last year), what incentive is there to follow them? Seriously -- the photo above was taken during 2008's IIHF World Junior tournament in the Czech Republic... look at those packed seats!

Canada is probably the only country that really gives a toss about the World Juniors, and it's got a lot to do with the fact that the team is a consistently dominant force. Unfortunately, Canadian dominance is leading to the rest of the world giving up... it's time to even out the field.

Split Canada down the middle for the World Juniors, make the tournament more even, and the level of competition should increase. Otherwise, all we're going to see is the red'n'white kicking the shit out of everyone for years to come (the pre-tournament warmup games are certainly giving us a hint of that... 6-2 over Sweden, who've won the last two silvers, and 3-0 over Finland last night... the Finns managed a grand total of 17 shots).
* How much do you love that map? For serious! Windows 7 is pretty awesome... MS Paint has stuff like "crayon" and "oil brush".