‘Under a microscope’: Team Canada prepares for World Juniors

Logan Stankoven knew he and the rest of Team Canada were under the microscope when World Children’s Hockey Championship begin.

Not only will the squad play at home when they face Latvia in the first game of the tournament on Wednesday, they will do so during a period of close scrutiny of Canadian hockey.

Stankoven said hockey players around the country are used to looking at balls under a microscope.

“I don’t think it’s important who the player is or the team – hockey is an important thing in Canada and it brings people together,” he said, noting that growing up in Kamloops, BC, he careful. watched everything the players on the Kamloops Blazers did.

“So I think the spotlight is on us no matter what, and you want to be a great role model for young kids.”

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Criticism of Canadian Hockey flared up as the 10-team tournament began Tuesday in Edmonton.

The national sports organization has faced fierce criticism in recent months for its handling of sexual assault allegations against members of the former world youth teams.

The charges prompted congressional requests and the federal government to freeze funding for the organization.

Big name sponsors – including Telus and Canadian Tire – have followed suit, leaving the tape at Rogers Place ad-free and surrounding boards without the usual logos.

Team Canada goalkeeper Dylan Garand said.

“The people at Hockey Canada, the staff above did a great job of making sure and letting us know that they were taking care of things on the ice. And our job is to focus on what’s on the ice and our team,” he said. “So it’s been good and I wouldn’t say there’s any more pressure on us. We just focus on hockey.”

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The buzz and excitement that surrounds the first tournament of 2022 in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta., is virtually nonexistent.

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That iteration was postponed to December 29 after just four days as rising COVID-19 cases among players and officials forced games to be cancelled.

Czechia head coach Radim Rulik said holding the edition delayed in August means some players may take longer to get up to speed.

“There’s definitely a big difference in the players’ bodies because in December it’s clear they’re in the middle of the season,” he said through a translator on Tuesday. “However (I) think about the problem of the league, everything will be back to normal because the young players are very adaptable.”

The world juniors are the place to showcase the best under-20 players from around the globe, but the International Ice Hockey Federation has allowed athletes born in 2002 who have turned 20 to compete in the tournament. championships this summer.

Despite qualifying for reassessment, several major Canadian talents remain absent from the tournament, including former captain Kaiden Guhle (a Canadian Canadian prospect) and defender Owen Power, who was selected. Buffalo Sabers’ first overall pick in the 2021 NHL entry draft. Forward Shane Wright, who was placed 4th overall by the Seattle Kraken in the 2022 draft last month, is also absent.

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Team Canada will be led by Regina Pats forwards Connor Bedard and Kent Johnson, who were part of the men’s Olympic team that finished sixth at the Beijing Games.

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Mason McTavish also wore Maple Leaf at the Olympics and was the captain of the Canadian crew in Edmonton.

“It means a lot to me. Obviously I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to,” he said. “What I like to do is play hockey and compete. The World Youth Championship is one of the best in the world. To be here and to be the captain of this team is humbling for me. I’m really looking forward to Wednesday.”

The delayed 2022 tournament is also lacking a major competitive threat, with the International Ice Hockey Federation banning Russia from the competition because of the country’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Unlike previous versions of the event, tickets for the 2022 junior world class are still available through Ticketmaster, including around 1,300 for Wednesday’s tilt between Canada and Latvia. More than 1,500 seats for the final match of the 11-day tournament are still pending.

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Fewer than 200 people were in the stands for Tuesday’s first game of the tournament, a tie between Slovakia and Czechia.

The Slovaks (0-1-0) took a 2-0 lead before the end of the first half but the Czechs (1-0-0) fought back to win 5-4.

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The lack of spectators did not pose a problem for Slovakian striker Servac Petrovsky.

“I’m not surprised because it’s a 12pm game,” he said.

Back in Slovakia, it was 8pm when the rate dropped, so there was likely to be more people watching on TV, he added.

Even more seats were vacant when Finland (1-0-0) had a decisive 6-1 victory over Latvia (0-0-1) later in the day.

The defending champion USA easily beat Germany 5-1 in the final game of the day on Tuesday.

© 2022 Canadian Press

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