I can't help it -- the damn stuff is in my blood although I never strapped on skates until I was a teenager. Bad Ice concentrates on the major league, but today I'll talk about the kids.
It's a Christmas tradition. Some parents hike to the next town or maybe the next province for a tournament, but the IIHF hosts its annual World Junior Hockey Championship in different countries. This year the IIHF championship tournament is in the Czech Republic. Many Canadians make the trip. It starts on Boxing Day. These boys won't be with their families for Christmas, but they don't care.
Some started in house league, some in rep hockey. They're from all over the country.
For Canadian boys, it's not enough to win the silver. When you're in the finals, you're so close. Silver isn't the target. It's the gold or nothing. I watched the bronze medal game between USA and Russia, and the winning Russians were thrilled to win the bronze. It's not the same in the final game. Silver is better than bronze, but it's not the gold.
Scored in overtime, one Canadian player is on his ass in the crease and the other slaps the puck in the scrum. The Swedish goalie remains on his stomach, his face hidden in his gloves. A full five minutes later a linesman comes over and pats his back, asking if he is all right.
A few minutes later, the camera focuses on his face behind the cage he had never removed. His blue eyes glisten with tears. After all, he's just a boy.
The Canadians are lined up shoulder to shoulder, singing along with their national anthem. They sing like shit but the heart is there. A few 'woo hoos' and 'hi moms' are mixed in.
When the goal scorer is interviewed, his teammates skate to his side and plant sloppy, lip smacking kisses on his flushed cheek. Apparently it's a new tradition. Real guys kiss.
A giant Canadian flag is unfurled on center ice. It's just like the big flag we have at the Husky gas station between Newmarket and Barrie. They're aren't too many of those around, but it's nice to see that they make their way to such events as this.
In the team photo, some hold up one finger for number one, some hold up four fingers for fourth gold in a row.
One boy skates in front of the now empty Sweden bench and applauds their efforts.
Now they climb into the stands with the trophy. I'll bet some officials are a little nervous. The boys allow fans to touch the silver trophy lined in gold. As they drag it to the dressing room, a bottle of champagne is emptied into the vessel. At least some of these boys are of drinking age!
Stephan Legion, out with a separated shoulder, managed to lift the trophy with one hand. He is interviewed in the dressing room and gets pied. He says at least the cream tastes good. He plants a kiss on the interviewer's cheek, slathering his face with white foam.
Most of these boys will be in the NHL within a couple of years. They keep coming.
Maybe I'll do a YA novel about little Mishayla, my heroine's daughter from Bad Ice. She's a kick-ass hockey player, too.
Photo from cbc.ca - (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)