... Are we all okay? The 2023 installment of was an incredible series of hockey games in an incredible pair of host cities that I can only hope helps usher in a new era for Hockey Canada while we continue to excise the deep wounds that have afflicted that organization in this country. This year's tournament was bolstered with a great crop of young players and a couple of teams that clearly showed up and punched above their weight class. I felt some teams could surprise and they definitely did, some even more than I expected. The round robin was predictably unpredictable, as one wrong move can put you on your heels as we all saw here in Canada. I didn't expect the Czechs to win their group, and I certainly didn't expect Switzerland to win three times in overtime to really pressure the Finns and Slovaks potentially into a tougher quarterfinal matchup than they may have expected. I thought it was promising that just one team came out of this tournament with no wins to speak of at all, but I also do think this tournament's level of competition suffers without the addition of Russia and Belarus, the latter of which are in a great period of youth development currently and could potentially have pressure the middle of this group of teams a bit more. On that note, the Norwegians will replace the Austrians next year, and I wouldn't be surprised if it's the beginning of a good run for Norway over the next few years with talented names like Petter Vesterheim, Mats Bakke Olsen, Michael Brandsegg-Nygård, Markus Røhnebæk Stensrud and Martin Johnsen all returning for at least next year, and talented players not on this year's world junior team in Felix Granath, Elias Straume Vatne, and Liam Sætre all being impressive in my viewings. Shout out to the Japanese U20 team landing themselves in the Division 1A tournament as well!
Back to the World Juniors at hand, I certainly worried most about my health there for a bit as the medal round went on. Three of the final four matches went to overtime. That is hilarious on it's own, but both medal games were an absurd back and forth flurry of activity and intensity and we are all the more better for it. Did the right team win the Gold? I'd argue the Canadians were the best team on paper, and gosh dangit they found a way to win it... again. Their flair for the dramatic is almost laughable at this point, but it worked! The Czechs may have lost the gold medal, but they won my heart. My damaged, bloated heart after watching this for the last two weeks, but it's still my heart! The Swedes and States gave us arguably the most bonkers medal game in a very very long time with their 8-7 overtime jaunt, and I before getting into the team recaps, I want to give a thumbs up to the team from Slovakia. Their gutsy, offensive heck of a tournament blew me away, and it's entirely possible we see almost three full lines eligible and likely to return, as well as Adam "Where the Hell is Chippewa" Gajan doing whatever sorcery he did eligible to return. I always love seeing skilled, aggressive and unafraid teams punch above their weight class, and the Slovaks didn't disappoint.
Relegated - Austria