Yes, the World junior hockey tournament is upon us. Cue the over-the-top nationalism, the hefty weight of expectations placed on young hockey players. Will members of the team have to sign a "pledge" this year, as was the case in the past, where they agree to abide by the principles of Canadian hockey? Considering what is known about junior hockey, it’s a safer hazing ritual than forcing players to drag water bottles around with their genitals. Or walking down a hallway nude with a marshmallow in the butt, careful not to drop it for fear of what might come next.
Blair is right on the new, uglier attitudes about the tournament, but he's wrong on the source. It's not some weird grass-roots nationalism causing all of this, it's the relentless media hype about the importance of the tournament. TSN has created a cottage industry out of their broadcast rights to the tournament and they prey on nationalism and ownership of the game to build the World Junior Championships into something of much greater import than they actually are.
TSN broadcasts from World Junior warm-up camps in the summer and from selection camp again later in the fall. Beginning in September with the start of the CHL season, they trot Bob McKenzie out to talk about the WJC roster during Sportscentre and intermission of NHL games. As November draws to a close TSN uses TSN2 to increase the hype by broadcasting past WJC triumphs on a regular basis and TSN.com goes into high alert with bolded, all-caps headlines about the impending tourney. By the time the tournament hits, hockey fans have had four solid months of hype about the glory and greatness of the tournament and team.
Blair's conclusion is right on. Have fun with it, enjoy the festivities and the down time. Root for the home team, but remember that you're watching a bunch of teenagers play shinny.