Canadians are very protective over sports that only matter to them. Mutant forms of football. Ice hockey. Ice hockey for men and boys 19 and under.
Every year we go through this dance with the World Junior Hockey Championship. Sometimes, it’s the ‘Drive for 5’. Others, it’s in the name of Revenge. Some years, it’s Retribution… because, like Hurricanes, you can’t give it the same name with the same letter twice. Normally, they’re just cheap, TSN-based ploys for eyeballs.
This year, the Canadians are calling their gold medal quest ‘The Reason’.
“This summer, in the Canada-Russia Challenge, we used a commemorative slogan based on Phil Esposito’s speech, ‘No Other Reason,’ when we talked about going over to Russia for no other reason than for love of our country,” said Canadian junior coach Steve Spott to TSN.ca.
“”Now, coming into this tournament, we figure we know, ‘The Reason,’ and the reason is to come over here with one mission and that’s to win a gold medal… The boys seem to enjoy that.”
Yup. Said like any good jock would put it.
This year’s Canadians junior team figures to be its deepest in some time. It won’t be 2005 deep, but maybe 2009. That year, when the Canadians beat the Swedes for their fifth straight gold medal, the Canucks fielded a roster featuring John Tavares, Cody Hodgson, Jordan Eberle, P.K. Subban, and Ryan Ellis.
That was just the first line.
This year, their top three forwards are Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Mark Scheifele.
And, these guys are as jacked up as any maple syrup-sucking high school senior would be.
“It means a lot,” said Nathan McKinnon, one of the top players available in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. (That draft will continue, whether there’s an NHL season or not.) “This is my first world juniors and coming over here, the only reason is to win the tournament. We don’t have any other distractions.”