The 2022 World Junior Championship: What Happened?
By Josh Werle, Staff Writer
The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior Championships are the ultimate proving ground for young male hockey players. For players who are 20-years-old or younger, this is the biggest tournament in the world and a chance to prove themselves to the entire hockey community.
Many top-tier NHL players have made a name for themselves in this tournament. Names like Carey Price, Jamie Benn and Patrice Bergeron occupy the list of gold medal-winning Canadians. To put it simply, the World Junior Championships are a massive deal in the world of hockey. Players from the top ten ranked nations in the world compete for the chance to take home the gold medal, meaning that players from all around the world get an opportunity to shine.
NHL scouts will keep their eyes on players that interest them throughout their career but the World Junior Championships bring a different kind of attention. With millions of televisions around the globe watching this tournament every year, it truly could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance for these players and an opportunity to turn their name into a topic of household conversation.
For most of these young stars, this is the biggest opportunity of their lives and a chance for them to make it big. All the time they have spent practicing their shot, waking up at the crack of dawn to go to practice and staying up until dusk to finish a hockey game, has led to this moment.
The 2022 World Junior Championships were no different. The Canadian team had an immense amount of promise heading into this year’s event and were listed as the clear favourites to win the gold medal according to most oddsmakers. Names to watch included Owen Power, Mason McTavish and the 16-year-old phenom Connor Bedard.
The Canadians got off to an impressive start and the star players certainly lived up to the hype. Power, McTavish and Bedard all recorded five points each in only two games played as the Canadian team recorded dominant wins over Austria and Czechia. Things were going according to plan for team Canada; they scored a total of 17 goals in two games, outclassed both of their opponents and the star players were beginning to shine bright. Unfortunately, COVID-19 had other plans.
The United States, Russia and Czechia teams were all forced to forfeit games due to positive COVID-19 tests, all within a span of two days. All of the proper protocols were in place and extra caution was exercised during the course of the tournament. As mentioned previously, this tournament is a massive deal, and there was zero room for error. Even though everything was done correctly, COVID-19 was seemingly impossible to avoid. After the forfeiting began, it was clear that it wasn’t going to end there and the IIHF made the decision to cancel the tournament.
This decision, although necessary, was a crushing one for everyone involved. Most of these young players have worked their entire lives for an opportunity to show their talents on one of the biggest hockey stages in the world, only for it to be ripped away in a literal instant.
All hope is not lost though, as there is a chance that the tournament may get rescheduled later in the calendar year. Although it won’t be the same for the players, the chance to continue the tournament is still a massive opportunity that everyone involved would certainly appreciate. These players all deserve a fair shot to showcase their skills to the hockey world and to continue on with the tournament at a later date would seemingly be the best decision possible.