The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

January 5, 2007



But perhaps thousands of Canadians took a sick day off work today to watch our team -- with a heavy Winnipeg flavour -- beat Russia 4-2 today at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Sweden.

This tournament means everything to Canada, which has now won it three times in a row. We held the WJHC here in 1999 and every game involving Canada was sold out, to the rafters.

Why do we care so much?

Because we are barely 30 million people, walking in the shadow of the world's only superpower that excels at everything. We live in what many call a frozen wasteland for much of the year.

What else could we POSSIBLY be better at, potentially, than anyone else? Hockey or curling or speed skating or figure skating. Kinda makes sense, don't it? Ice, Ice, Baby.

But to beat the powerful Russians, who live on a mostly vast expanse of ice itself, a country of about 10 times our population, where hockey is also a way of life...

That's some of them above, celebrating a goal.

We also beat them last year in Vancouver. And we beat the Americans in the gold-medal game the year before that, in Grand Forks, North Dakota, barely an hour south of here.

I have a particularly warm feeling about this year's championship.

Canada's best forward, Jonathan Toews, only 18, is from Winnipeg. I've written about him before and I've most often been the main guy covering his progress.

He scored four goals in this tournament, including today's third (winning) goal, after scoring three times in three shots in a shootout Thursday to beat the Americans in the semifinal.

He was named today to the all-star team and in my opinion should have been named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

He was the third pick overall by the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks last summer and will be an NHL star.

Another good player for Canada, Darren Helm, wasn't even supposed to make the Canadian team but he did.

He's from St. Andrews, near Winnipeg. I talked to him by phone when he made the team. One of those classic stories about the kid who realized his potential or who overachieved.

That's him above, the blond-haired kid. He's 19, was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings and will be with them as early as next season. He scored two goals in one of the games this past week.

Another reason this is a bit closer to my heart is that I covered the 1991 WJHC in Turku, Finland, the coming-out party for players like Jaromir Jagr and Eric Lindros.

The photographer who took the above pictures, Jacques Boissinot of The Canadian Press, was my accompanying photographer that year, so that's another bit of Karma.

Again, I realize no one outside Canada is likely to care about this, any more than I'd likely be captivated by the Australian Rugby League title or the cricket ashes.

But hundreds of thousands of Canadians -- no, probably millions -- will have their chests pumped out just a little more proudly for the next bit.

I hope you can forgive that burst of momentary elation over Toews (left) and Helm (right).

By Monday, we'll be back to our regularly scheduled quiet politeness.