Gifts galore this holiday for all you sports junkies

Christmas brings many traditions and events people hold dear to.
The huge feasts, seeing family and friends once again, and fighting the throngs on Christmas Eve in search of an iPad are all a part of what makes the holidays great.
For the sports fan, though, there often wasn’t a whole lot to watch during Christmas in years past as most everyone was enjoying a brief period of downtime and reflecting on the past season.
However, this year sees a litany of choices for the diehards—despite the fact that the world of boxing yet again has failed to cash in on having the Manny Pacquiao/Floyd Mayweather Jr. super-fight take place on Boxing Day.
Seriously promoters, the money would be flying in and the incredibly bad puns by us writers would be out of control (but I digress).
For those of you in Fort Frances who won’t be completely stuffed after your dinners, or completely zonked out from the holiday get-togethers, the Fort Frances Lakers and Fort Frances Thunderhawks will play their annual exhibition tilt next Thursday (Dec. 29) in what promises to be an entertaining affair.
Obviously for us here in the Great White North, the biggest event during the holidays will be the world junior hockey championship out in Calgary and Edmonton. But like any good hype machine, I will save my thoughts on that until the end and start out with a tournament I’m sure I’m only one of a scant few in my age group who cares about.
And that is the Spengler Cup, which takes place in Davos, Switzerland.
Originally played outdoors until 1978, the Spengler Cup tournament sees many of the top teams from Europe battle it out for the chance to hoist the trophy on New Year’s Eve, with Canadians that currently are playing overseas making up Team Canada.
For a hockey nerd, the tournament sees many occurrences of having to pick your jaw up off the floor when you see some of the former NHL’ers who are on the rosters of the teams, with Marek Malik and Sandis Ozolins competing in this year’s event.
Plus for myself, it’s the only time of the year that Paul Romanuk, who (in my opinion) is still the finest hockey announcer today, calls a game for North American audiences, which makes the week an annual treat for yours truly.
Back on this side of the globe, NHL fans already are anticipating the annual Winter Classic game, which will take place Jan. 2 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia between the Flyers and N.Y. Rangers.
While it can be argued the lustre of having a game outdoors may not be what it was about a decade or so ago, the Winter Classic still is quite a big deal, especially in the United States, where the TV ratings usually are quite high.
Part of that hype can be attributed to the highly-successful “24/7” series on HBO, which showcased the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins a year ago and is doing the same thing with this season’s affair, giving viewers a chance to see how many expletives Rangers’ head coach John Tortorella will let loose and the insane thoughts of Flyers’ goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.
If hockey isn’t your thing, there will be a whole bunch of football taking place during the next couple of weeks, as well, in both the professional and collegiate ranks south of the border.
While most of the bowl games, in reality, don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, except for the national championship between Alabama and LSU on Jan. 9, college football games tend to get completely out of control when it comes to scoring and the ebb and flow between momentum, which makes a game worth watching if it is close during the final minutes.
In the professional ranks, despite the fact the quest for perfection for the Green Bay Packers (or the quest against imperfection by the no longer winless Indianapolis Colts) has come to an end, there still are interesting races between the top teams in the NFL for playoff spots—and at the bottom in the “Suck for [Andrew] Luck” sweepstakes.
Meanwhile, thanks to a lengthy lockout, the NBA season will be getting underway on Christmas Day with five games, among them being a rematch of this past summer’s NBA final between the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat.
Personally, I’m looking forward to the late game that night between the Golden State Warriors and L.A. Clippers, as I’m trying to wrap my head around the fact the Clippers no longer are viewed as a punching bag and now are considered to be a must-watch team.
And finally, as I mentioned earlier on, there is the biggest holiday event of them all—the World Junior Hockey Championships, which will run from Boxing Day until the final on Jan. 5.
Despite the fact Canada has lost the last two championships in heart-breaking fashion (in overtime to the U.S. in 2010 and in a third-period collapse to Russia last January), they still are the de facto favourites no matter what, as they have failed to medal only twice in the last 20 years at the tournament.
While watching Canada win quite often is always great, there are the occasions where it could end up being a bit tedious when they play a lesser opponent, such as their 16-0 win over Latvia a couple of years ago.
But when you get those classic encounters involving the Americans, the Russians, or the Swedes, like we have seen over the past couple of years, it surpasses any excitement that you may get outside of an out-of-control New Year’s Eve bash.
It’s safe to say that at some point during the next couple of weeks, a memorable sporting moment is going to occur.
And if you’re not excited by any of these events, you may need to have your pulse checked.

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