2017 World Juniors Report (Day 5)

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The World Juniors are beginning to wind down as the medal rounds are within reach and the final day of round robin games is coming up.

That final day will have some key match-ups for the standings and for the playoff rounds as Canada battles the USA for the top spot in Group B and the Czech Republic looks to beat Sweden and move into second place.

The surprising part of the tournament is that the defending champions will not be in the running as they are instead fighting to stay in the top tier.

Finland dropped to the bottom of the standings and after Denmark lost to Switzerland there is no chance for them to stay out of the relegation series.

Now they will need to win two games if they don’t want to enter the history books with the biggest fall in Junior history.

It has been a surprising tournament overall with the Finns struggling and the Danes taking the hearts of the fans.

What might be stranger though is the fact that for the first time in a very long time Canada is not the ultimate destination for the Juniors.

To be more specific Montreal and Toronto are not the destinations many believed they would be for the Juniors.

Ticket sales have not been as high as expected as the Canadian games are doing well but every other game is essentially an empty arena.

Fans have not bought tickets at the same rate that they were expected to especially for a Canadian city.

After all, Canadians are the fans that pay more attention to the Juniors than anyone else in the world.

This is the tournament that everyone pays attention to and it continues to be a tradition around the holidays in the homes of many Canadians.

Yet the latest tournament in Canada has suffered from a lack of interest in two of the biggest cities in the country.

Hockey Canada is concerned about this as they will be hosting another tournament in two years when they travel to the west coast as Vancouver and Victoria host the games.

The organisation will put together a report about this year’s tournament, as they always do, and will look to see why things didn’t quite work this time around.

The lessons they learn will be applied to 2019 and that really won’t be much of a challenge as the issues facing this tournament are pretty obvious to see.

For one this is the second time in three years that this tournament is taking place in these two cities.

They may have changed where the teams are and where the medals will be handed out to share the tournaments evenly between the two cities but it is still a short turnover.

The biggest issue with the short turnaround is that both cities tend to be places where big events work well and other things tend to struggle.hockey-sidebar

Things that are considered secondary, take the CFL as an example, take a back seat to everything else.

The first time these events occurred the sales were slightly better, especially in Toronto, because it was a big event.

Bringing it back takes some of the lustre off of the event and the second time around it isn’t the same as a special event.

In Montreal, one of the issues has been a lack of support for national teams which is not a new thing in the province.

There are certainly very proud Canadians in the province but there tends to be a lack of love shown for Canadian teams and international competitions.

In Toronto, the biggest issue right now is that the city has played host to some major events over the last year.

The Blue Jays postseason run, the Raptors postseason run, TFC’s run to the final, the Grey Cup and the upcoming Centennial Classic are all competing for the same dollars from fans.

When it comes to any of those or a tournament that many would have already seen a few years ago it becomes a tougher sell.

One issue that both cities share too is that they are not necessarily great hockey cities instead they are cities that support their NHL teams.

Junior hockey has struggled in both cities and if it isn’t the Leafs or the Canadiens it matters a lot less to the fans.

Add to all of this that the prices were high for that level of hockey, which is also an issue with other events competing for dollars.

The tickets sales aren’t great but it shouldn’t insight panic among the organisers as there are plenty of factors out of their control that has resulted in poor attendance for non-Canadian games.

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Day 5:
Switzerland 5-4 Denmark (SO)
– The Danes were quickly taking over this tournament and all they needed was one more win to guarantee second place in Group A but they couldn’t get it as they fought a tough battle against the Swiss but came up just short in a shootout

Slovakia 4-2 Latvia
– The battle to stay out of relegation turned out to be a good one for the Slovaks who took the win and earned a spot in the playoffs while the Latvians lost the game and earned a date with the Finns to try to stay in the top tier

Day 6:
Sweden vs. Czech Republic (Saturday, December 31st; 1:00 pm ET)
– The Czechs can’t win much in this game as a win gets them second place which puts them into the quarter-finals against Russia while a loss gets them the second place team but finishing second would still be an accomplishment

USA vs. Canada (Saturday, December 31st; 3:30 pm ET)
– It is one of the best rivalries in the Juniors as Canada and USA meet almost every New Year’s Eve to be the best in North America and this time it will be to earn first place in the group and get the easiest matchup in the quarter-finals

Finland vs. Switzerland (Saturday, December 31st; 5:30 pm ET)
– The Finns were hoping that this game was going to mean a lot more but not even a win can take them out of relegation as they hope to just finish the tournament with one win this year rather than going winless

Russia vs. Slovakia (Saturday, December 31st; 8:00 pm ET)
– The Russians may not have been able to beat the top two teams but they can still finish third and to do that they will need to beat the Slovaks who would love to beat the Russians and gain some momentum heading into the playoffs

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