In the midst of a pandemic that has ravaged national teams and played hell with international travel, it’s a kind of a miracle that the 2021 World Junior Championships will happen at all.
Pulling together the world’s most prestigious junior tournament is a big challenge even in a good year. In late 2020, with COVID-19 raging largely uncontrolled in several of its constituent nations, the hurdles are even higher.
It helps, no doubt, that Edmonton is this year’s co-host, along with Red Deer. The province of Alberta provided the Western Conference bubble that gave the NHL an improbably successful Stanley Cup Playoffs stage earlier this year. And it’s heartening to note that since they’ve entered the Western Canada bubble, there are no new cases of COVID among players on any of the 10 participating teams.
But individual squads still have to fight the viral threat in their own way. Martin Merk shared some of the details in a story for the International Ice Hockey Federation website:
During the camps on home ice the ten teams already have their first big battle – against the coronavirus. Several players will miss the World Juniors due to Covid-19 infections.
Canada was the first country to start with the selection camp already in November with a large roster to choose from but saw the ice time shortened due to positive Covid-19 tests. The team and staff were in self-isolation for two weeks and re-opened the camp on 8 December. Defencemen Matthew Robertson, Mason Millman and Daemon Hunt and forwards Ridly Greig and Xavier Simoneau were sent home before camp resumed for health reasons and according to the return-to-play protocol.
Dual citizen and Dallas Stars defense prospect Thomas Harley will skate for a loaded Team Canada in the tournament, which will open – on time and on schedule, as it were – on Christmas Day. He’ll play alongside some of the hottest NHL prospects anywhere, including second and third overall picks Quinton Byfield and Kirby Dach. Harley, whose season with the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads is on COVID-related hold until January 23, talked about the outsized impact of training for a pre-tournament round with Russia during a post-practice media call:
“It’s huge. Our practices lately have been pretty intense. We’re trying to get them as game-like as possible, but, you know, nothing compares to the game, especially with a team like the Russians. They’re real fast, real smart, real skilled.
“So hopefully we can get our feet under us in the first and, you know, just remember how to play hockey in the second and third.”
If you plan to spend some holiday downtime watching some quality hockey, the NHL Network is broadcasting every game live. Here are a few links to get you started:
- The IIHF’s complete game schedule
- Broadcast and streaming info for the USA and Canada, courtesy of The Sporting News
- Video highlights from exhibition and tournament games
John Klingberg is ready for hockey. Some of you might be, too.
TXU Energy sponsors the Stars’ Power Play, and now it’s sharing some holiday warmth with local sports fans.
Want to score a Stars jersey or an official swag bag filled with new gear and autographed collectibles?— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) December 22, 2020
Click below and enter to win from @txuenergy!
Details » https://t.co/rnlAoaSudy pic.twitter.com/ZiVILtqdH6
Around The Leagues
The 2021 season will be short, but complicated.
The @NHLPA and @NHL have announced critical dates, medical protocols, transition rules and a rule change for the 2020-21 season.— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) December 22, 2020
Details: https://t.co/NLripqvf6N (includes links to COVID-19 Protocol, Positive Test Protocol & Travel Protocol) pic.twitter.com/9MOwpidv1B
But it’s no more complicated than getting players back on ice in the first place.
ICYMI: In an exclusive interview with Graeme Roustan, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr about the challenges of negotiating a CBA during the pandemic, getting back on the ice during the COVID-19 era, the issues concerning the North Division and more.https://t.co/hs4BOrSNBk— The Hockey News (@TheHockeyNews) December 23, 2020
Pierre LeBrun summarizes the new schedule. Collect and save!
So, to recap:— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) December 20, 2020
Puck drop: Jan. 13
Trade deadline: April 12
End of reg season: May 8
Expansion draft: July 21
NHL draft: July 23-24
Free-agent Frenzy: July 28
July 29: LeBrun goes to cottage https://t.co/um2EkAIOc6
Representation matters. Here’s a holiday gift destined to inspire a whole generation of girls.
Sarah Nurse played with Barbies as a child, but never saw ones that played hockey or looked like her.— Ryan S. Clark (@ryan_s_clark) December 22, 2020
Now that Black, hockey playing doll exists as it was inspired by Nurse.
And it’s having a major impact. https://t.co/dc8IFHtnpA
Captain America understands this reference. Enjoy.