Volume 95, Issue 55

Thursday, January 10, 2002
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Happy New Year... except in Guelph

Western hopes spiked by Queen's

Was it "gold or bust?"

Was it "gold or bust?"

Martin's Mantra
Dave Martin
Sports Editor

Not long ago it was almost a given that the Canadian national anthem would be playing at the end of any international hockey event.

In recent years, our tidal wave of men's and women's World Championships, Canada Cups and five-straight World Junior victories has dried up completely, causing a serious drought for the Canadian hockey fan.

This winter the buzz returned, as talented roster announcements quickly pinned gold medal expectations on both the Canadian junior team and the men's Olympic team.

With the pressures of "gold or bust" riding on their shoulders, our juniors took to the ice over the Christmas holidays and brought home a silver medal after a heart-breaking loss to our long-time hockey nemesis, Russia.

So was it really that much of a 'bust' for our country?

Although silver was a bit of a letdown, here is why we should still take great pride in the efforts of our team;

They're just kids. Not that I am so old and wise, but to think the eldest player on the ice is only nineteen years old and people all over the world are watching every single move they make.

They are still playing for the love of the game. These players have not yet been completely swept up by the multi-million dollar business aspect of sport and are still innocent enough to be playing for their true love of hockey.

There is a certain passion in the World Junior tournament that cannot often be seen in the National Hockey League. This point was never more evident than when I watched the tears that flooded the ice as Team Canada received their silver medal.

It's the most justifiable bandwagon to jump on. Starting Christmas day, an entire nation of hockey fans are able to jump on the bandwagon, cheering their hearts out for players most have never heard of before.

Within a few days, not only do you know every name and complete background of each player wearing red, but you know line combinations, special-team units and even match-ups and roles for every Canadian player.

A month from now we won't remember half of this, but it is always neat to see these guys pop-up a couple years down the road as prominent NHL stars.

There were a lot of solid victories en route to 'winning' (not losing) the silver. This team, more than any other in the last few years, showed we have the capability to regain our throne atop the hockey world for quite a few years to come.

Although things didn't work out as planned in the gold medal game, there were many flashes of brilliance throughout the rest of the tournament. Terrific goaltending, gritty performances by veterans and confident strides made by the team's youngsters ensured that all of Canada will be justified in getting whipped into a junior hockey frenzy again next year.

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Copyright The Gazette 2002