The topsy-turvy world of the NHL goes on, and with six days in between a big victory against Colorado and another important Western Conference game against Columbus, one might think that we should usher in the New Year with a spate of resolutions and a full two days of football.
While that’s always fun, I think that there is another way to sing a little Auld Lang Syne and bring in the year 2006. How about checking out the World Junior Tournament, presented on, among other things, FSN Bay Area?
Of course, you can always check out the United States vs. Canada on Dec. 31st, along with the rest of the 36 million people who live north of the 49th Parallel. You’ll watch the future Sidney Crosbys and Alexander Ovechkins of the world, with a few Dion Phaneufs thrown in for good measure.
But those are Canadian and Russian names, and this winter, the big focus is on the players from the United States, who are considered to be the favorites to win the entire tournament. It’s a great sign for hockey in the United States that so many talents are on display, and that for the first time ever, the USA actually has more registered hockey players than Canada, a fact that is causing much consternation in the Great White North.
Some of the big names for Team USA include forward Phil Kessell, who is slated to be a top draft pick in 2006. A few potential Pacific Division rivals will be there, too, including Blake Wheeler (Phoenix), Bobby Ryan (Anaheim), and Matt Niskanen (Dallas).
One of the great things about the World Junior Tournament is that college and junior kids are playing. There are a smattering of pros (Chris Bourque of the AHL’s Hershey Bears is an example on the USA squad), but the feeling is a lot like the old U.S. Olympic team, circa 1980.
While there are no current Sharks on the list, that doesn’t really indicate much. Not only are there several Sharks eligible for future tournaments, there are some who just may be on San Jose’s draft list for the future.
It’s great hockey, and it’s fun. Why not check it out? It will be a great break from the Tournament of Roses Parade and the endless supply of college football.
For Seagate Technology’s In The Crease, I’m Dan Rusanowsky.