Boxing Day arrived, and so did a nation’s hunger for victory at the hands of teenagers. At least, that’s what TSN will tell you. The IIHF World Junior Championships seem to have many of the traits of a full blown commercial enterprise in Canada. Viewed through Canadian media, this tournament is all about Canada, all about Canadian companies, and all about Canadian dollars. For proof, one need look no further than the advertisements for Tim Hortons, the Keg and other Canadian companies on the boards around the rink – in Pardubice, Czech Republic.
I’m not sure how to balance the support for the tournament and the National Junior program along with my growing cynicism around its commercialization. I’m fully behind the team, the program, player development, coach development and the opportunity the tournament provides young men to engage in international competition. I am beleaguered with analysts, reporters, specialists, and whoever else telling me how to view the tournament, where to shop, and how our national pride rests on the outcome of 6 or less games. Our national pride rests on how we support these young men regardless of whether restaurants or clothing companies do, and regardless of whether they win or lose. If companies want to pump money into the program and it helps the players and the coaches in their development, that’s just great. But I’m not going to feel as if they’re doing it out of the goodness of their heart. They do it because it makes them money.
The players on the National Junior team have many years of professional sport ahead of them. Am I alone in thinking it’s a bit of a shame companies are trying to cash in before many of the players are even out of high school? Or, is it just the “natural” progression of the competition and that for the game to grow we need the fiscal support commercialization offers?
Either way, all the best to each of Canada’s players, coaches and support staff. Have a great tournament – win or lose.