Well, school is over. except for those pesky exams, of course. But now that the holidays are just around the corner, it’s time for my, and most hockey fans’, favourite event of the year. Starting on Boxing Day, the 2006 World Junior (Under 20) Hockey Championships will begin in Vancouver. An event most people outside of Canada don’t even know about is an event that we wake up at 7 a.m. in the middle of our vacation to watch Canada beat France 11-0 (c’mon, I know I wasn’t the only one watching that game.) These kids are all under 20 years old, and for two weeks they are the darlings of the entire nation. Players make a name for themselves in this tournament. Sidney Crosby, Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, Jose Theodore, Roberto Luongo, Wade Redden, Jarome Iginla are just the start of a long list of players who used this tournament to make a name for themselves.
Team Canada named its invitees to training camp on Monday, and like always, there was much debate about people put on or left off the list. However, this year at the World Juniors, there is a bit more excitement for me as a Habs fan. For the first time in as long as I can remember, three Canadiens prospects have a very good chance to crack Team Canada’s lineup. Kyle Chipchura is a lock, as many people are even thinking he will be the captain, and Guillaume Latendresse would be in the NHL if it weren’t for a Canadiens lineup that has several players who can play on that second line. Carey Price is a question mark due to his inconsistent play so far this season on a very bad Tri-City Americans team, but he played Canada to a silver medal in the World Under-18 Championships last year and if he isn’t on the team this year, he is pretty much a lock the next two years.
Another interesting storyline is Angelo Esposito. Esposito will try to be only the fifth player to make the team as a 16 year-old. Eric Lindros, Jason Spezza, Jay Bouwmeester and Crosby are the other four – not exactly bad company. This team isn’t favoured to win the Gold Medal; that honour goes to the Americans led by Phil Kessel and the #2 and #3 picks in the 2005 NHL draft, Bobby Ryan and Jack Johnson. Canada, with only one player (Cam Barker) returning from last year’s gold-medal-winning team, will field a very young team. There will be a lot of 18 year olds on this team, players who will probably be back for next year as well.
A different kind of world
Perhaps of more interest around the world, the 2006 FIFA World Cup draw will be held on Friday in Germany. The controversy has already started: Mexico was listed as one of the eight teams with a favoured draw whereas the Netherlands, who are ranked third in the world, were not. This is because of a formula used by the organizers that puts weight on success at the last World Cup, which the Dutch didn’t qualify for, as well as the World Rankings. Personally, I feel that this World Cup is probably the one I am looking forward to most as my interest in soccer is continuing to grow.
Down South, the games go on
While teams North of the border take a break for the holidays and exams, universities in the States still have to pay their bills, and that means their sports teams continue to play. College football season is just entering the period when everyone starts to watch – Bowl season. From late December until January 4 when #1 Southern California faces #2 Texas, football fans will be glued to their seats to watch some athletes playing for their career.
Meanwhile, College Basketball is a lot more than March Madness. CBS and ABC will be showing regular season games from now until March, and those games have just as much excitement and drama as March Madness. So if you like the 64-team free-for-all, you owe it to yourself to watch some regular season action.
Of course, the Pros are still around
The NFL, NHL and NBA will continue their seasons and Major League Baseball will be holding its trading and free agent season from now until Spring Training in February. The NFL season is shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory as the 12-0 Colts continue to win, but surprising teams like the Bengals, Seahawks and Jaguars are going to give the Colts a run for their money on the way to Super Bowl XL.