The holiday season brings so much excitement in itself, but added to this is excitement brought about by the 2012 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. This year Alberta, Canada will be the host.
The games begin on the day after Christmas on Dec. 26th and the winner will be determined on January 5th, 2012. 10 countries have been working hard to prepare for the event. Group A consists of Latvia, Slovakia, Switzerland, Russia and Sweden, while Group B includes Canada, United States, Denmark, Finland and Czech Republic.
Last year the Russian team captured the coveted gold medal. Their star forward Evgeny Kuznetsov is the only returning player, but the players filling the remaining spots are up to the task of holding onto the title. Nail Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko will aid the team as they are considered the top two draft eligible players in the 2012 class. The Russians may be considered the favourites going into the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championships.
In Canada, one big story is of Freddie and Dougie Hamilton, brothers who were both named to the Canadian Junior Team. This is the first time brothers played together on this team since the Mollers in 1982. Along with four veterans from the 2011 world junior silver-medallist squad, the brothers will play on a solid Canadian team. Canada has won the event 15 times and has played in the gold-medal game for the previous 10 years. A lot of pressure, but the talent on the team this year might bring them there again.
An unfortunate occurrence for the U.S. appeared when defenseman Seth Jones had an upper-body injury in an exhibition game against Team Russia and will be unable to play for the U.S. National Junior Team. However, the team who won bronze last year has eight returning players and some of their players have already been drafted to the NHL, so they are definitely a gold medal contender.
By the end of the 2011 World Junior Hockey Championships in Buffalo, N.Y., Alberta had already sold 574,000 tickets for the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championships. This shows the growing support for the young players.
Former team Canada player and current Edmonton Oilers forward Jordan Eberle said “You get to play against the best of the best. In the tournament, there’s going to be a lot of guys who are going to have the opportunity to get drafted or play in the NHL, so you’re put in the spotlight. When you excel in that tournament, it gives you confidence that you can make it to this level.” Further players say it is a major milestone in a young players life.
The 2012 World Junior Hockey Championships begin on Dec. 26th with CAN playing FIN at 01:30 PM MT, SWE playing LAT at 03:30 PM MT, USA playing DEN at 06:00 PM MT and RUS playing SUI at 08:00 PM MT.