Another Lockout Tournament (2013 World Junior Preview)

2013 WJC logoThe hockey world will get a brief break this holiday season as hockey will finally be the topic of conversation for an on ice product. It has been almost three months since the NHL regular season was to start for the 2012-13 season. Unfortunately for fans the NHLPA and the NHL owners would not come to an agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. As the billionaire owners and millionaire players fight in board rooms the fans have been the ones who have paid for it. With no professional hockey so far and none in the near future the fans have had to sit without their favorite sport. There have been very few winners in the process so far but one major winner is the teams involved in the IIHF tournaments. The first one of these tournaments and the one that will definitely see a change thanks to the NHL lockout will be the World U20 Tournament. The main reason for this is that the youngest NHL stars have no teams to play for during the tournament and so they all get the chance to play for their countries. In the NHL the teams are getting younger every year with teams using younger and younger fighters every year. 19 year olds playing in the NHL are not as uncommon as they used to be as they are better prepared for life in the NHL than ever before. For the World Juniors that usually means that the best young players cannot play for their countries in the tournament as their NHL teams will not let them leave for the tournament. This leaves many teams without their superstars and leaves only the deepest countries with enough talent to challenge for the championship. This year though that has all changed as the best young talent in the world is available for every national team. This sets up what could be a great tournament as the best of the best get to face off, much like in 2004-05, to see who has the best young talent in the world.

The last time there was a lockout in the NHL Canada won the tournament and began an unprecedented run of five straight tournament wins. It was an amazing time in Canadian hockey dominance but that era has faded with the Canadians struggling to get back to the Gold Medal since 2009. For many countries that would be fine, especially since Canada has 2 silvers and a bronze in that time, but for the Canadians it has been devastating. For years the World Juniors were Canada’s tournament but that is no longer the case as the era of equals has begun. In the last three years there have been three different champions and none have been Canada. With every national program getting better every year the lockout will not only affect the Canadians, Americans, and Russians. Almost every team has an NHL caliber player or more than just one meaning that the competition will only heat up without NHL teams to take away the top talent. As teams are only get better the only question for this tournament will be if the trend of new champions can continue? Will a surprise team make a run or will one of the powers continue to dominate? Can Canada get back to winning in the World Juniors? Can the Russians win on home soil? All of these questions will be answered as the best young players go to Ufa, Russia to determine the next champions of the world.

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