Team Canada draws criticism for late-night final cuts after WJC exhibition opener

Rourke Chartier (in red) was one of the four players released (Chris Young, The Canadian Press)
Rourke Chartier (in red) was one of the four players released (Chris Young, The Canadian Press)

Perhaps the underlying thought is that competitive personalities wouldn't want to sleep on something they don't have. Long story short, the timing of Team Canada's final four releases, which Sunaya Sapurji covered off thoroughly earlier, were roundly criticized on Friday night.

There probably isn't any perfect way to tell one of the country's top 25 or so junior hockey players that he isn't, presently, one of the best 22. Doing it at such a late hour raised questions in some hockey circles about whether this is the right way to treat 18- and 19-year-old players, who are still not fully grown, emotionally mature pros. Or it could be that doing it this way was an uncomfortable reminder of how world junior championship has become such big business on the backs those 18- and 19-year-old players. Either way, it's a talker.

From Sportsnet's Chris Johnson (@reporterchris), who seemed to strike a chord with people left cold by the timing:

Team Canada would likely draw a critique no matter how it managed finalizing the roster. For years on end, it used to make the final cuts very early in the morning during its selection camp, with players getting crack-of-dawn wake-up calls in the team hotel before coming out to meet bleary-eyed media. It tried to move away from that during 2014 world junior championship by only inviting two players more than the roster limit to the selection camp, only to elicit knee-jerk criticism about not instilling a competitive atmosphere. Then that team finished fourth, supposedly proving that criticism right.

The world junior is incomprehensibly, unimaginably big business in Canada. Part of the pull is that it does have that element that makes good reality TV: a simple concept, all these young, not overly well-known young men brought in from nooks and crannies of the junior hockey world, to vie for that coveted Maple Leaf jersey. And like reality TV, the ones who were called but not chosen have to suck it up and say they did their best. It seems callous, but it was never intended to be personal and it's become part of the presentation. And as Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds director of player personnel Victor Carneiro pointed out on his personal Twitter, this does follow a procedure that's standard in the sports world, where players do meet with the coach before taking their leave.

Not only that, but Team USA also released players, including potential returnee Adam Erne, immediately after its exhibition game vs. the Boston University Terriers on Friday night. That would seem to be the same thing, but different, because even though the U.S. has won the world junior twice in the past five years, there isn't as much of a life-or-death attachment to how it fares each Christmastime. In that vein, little is ever said when teams from overseas (European teams in a North American WJC and vice versa) have to put released players on a plane home, sometimes on Dec. 24 or 25. It's happened.

Maybe the simple explanation that it was time to go ahead with the final 22 with the first game just six days away is plausible, after all. That is the way it is. It is never going to feel comfortable, but neither does all the media build-up and preying on Canadian insecurity over what is, ultimately, a tournament played by teenagers who toil in anonymity for eight out of nine months of their season.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.