Why we love the World Juniors

It can get pretty lonely at the top.

Canadians can sometimes take for granted what has come so easily to them over the past half-decade or so at the annual Christmas tournament that is the World Junior Hockey Championships.

So perhaps the greatest thing to happen to the great white north was being humbled as hosts last year when the upstart Americans crashed the party in Saskatchewan, capturing gold, and halting Canada’s gold-digging streak at five years.

It’s okay Canada, you got your vengeance over those Yankees at some venue called the Winter Olympics just a couple months later — you may have heard about it.

But the 2011 edition of the World Junior tournament has taken on a life of its own.

Rabid face-painted, jersey-donning, cow-bell and air-horn equipped fans north of the 49th parallel have been sighted, crossing en masse, into enemy territory in Buffalo.

Any poor, unaware or oblivious soul observing the border might think the nation has finally lost it and is attacking Obamaland the only way we know how – with sticks and skates.

But there in itself is the question we must all ask ourselves when we take a moment to stop sipping our Timmies.

Is all of this really necessary? Can any nation that takes itself even a little bit seriously justify this mass temporary migration to Buffalo just to watch some teenagers, not yet NHL-primed, try and destroy other teenagers that don’t call themselves Canucks?

And the answer is a clear, resounding yes.

And no, it’s not for our intra-continental insecurities and inferior feelings we may harbour towards a country ten times our population just below us.

It’s an outlet. A source of venting our national pride in a game as natural to us, as cuisine is to the French.

The World Hockey Championships are often a laughable facade, with some of the best players still competing for the Stanley Cup. The World Cup of Hockey has been stripped of its legitimacy due to redundancy, and, last time I checked, the Olympics only roll around once every four years.

The World Juniors has evolved into a spectacle that anyone can get excited about.

The players are getting a taste of elite, international competition for the first time in their lives.

Future stars strut their stuff, and undrafted players make names for themselves to NHL scouts, especially overseas players with minimum exposure in North America.

The tournament has also decidedly become a holiday tradition.

When school’s out, the stores are closed and the weather’s sour, family and relatives can sip some cocoa, sit by the fire and cozy up to some thunderous hipchecks.

Plus, injecting a little money into the Buffalo economy is never a bad thing; as U.S. forward, Emerson Etem can attest with the tweet that got him in some hot water: “buffalo is a ghost town!! the worst city ever, it makes medicine hat look like paradise.”

Hey, we can’t all grow up in California.

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