A Canadian tradition to be proud of

It’s a holiday tradition that’s been shared in homes and bars all across Canada since 1974. The world junior hockey championship is a tournament that portrays patriotism—and some darn good hockey.
It all begins on Boxing Day when hockey fans all over the country get out of bed—no matter how early—and turn on the tube for the very first game of the tournament.
Instead of talk about the NHL regular season, the Canadian junior team becomes the topic of many conversations. People are dropping stats and making bets, and they can’t seem to get enough of the hockey chit-chat.
It made for an especially exciting and interesting time this year when Canada came into the tournament as an underdog given the team’s much less-experienced roster compared to last year.
However, the underdog title Team Canada wore certainly didn’t seem to faze them in the least. In fact, most of the players interviewed said it was all the more reason to get out there and represent their country the right way—by proving everyone wrong.
And so they did, blanking long-time rival Russia 5-0 in the gold-medal game last Thursday night.
It sent shivers up my spine every time Canada scored. Each player would grab their jersey and point to the Maple Leaf in the centre, as if to say “This is for you, Canada.”
That’s something I have noticed in my few years. There are very few things that seem to bring Canada together as a country. Very few things that allow us to show how proud we are to be part of this country.
However, the tradition of the world junior hockey championship gives Canadians (whether they happen to be hockey fans or not) the opportunity to gloat a little—or a lot in my case.
I was watching the Canada-U.S. game with the sports editor from the Daily Journal over in International Falls. It probably was one of the more interesting games I’ve ever watched because of the obvious rivalry between the two countries.
We were throwing cheap shots at each other all night (though not as cheap as Jack Johnson’s elbow to Steve Downie’s head after Canada’s winning goal—so gutless).
But the highlight? For the first time in my life, I was able to look over and drop the line: “How do you like them apples, America?”
He wasn’t overly impressed. I, on the other hand, couldn’t have been prouder. Hockey is one of the only things that separates us from the United States. It gives us an identity. So heck yeah, it felt good.
The way I see it is in the bigger picture, sports always has been used as a means of showing patriotism and taking pride in your country. Potential Olympic host cities use the Games as a tool for exporting their values and traditions to the only truly global audience there is for anything.
But with the junior team, it combines everything people want in a sporting event. No big contracts. No big names. Just a showcase for the future of the sport.

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