When it Canada loses a big hockey game to the United States like it did Thursday at the world junior championship, you just know there will be a faction of sore losers.
That's fine that people react poorly, because at least it shows they are . What is really baffling is trying to figure out when exactly it became a requirement to make some sweeping, blanket generalization to explain away Team Canada's result in the tournament. After Team USA throttled Canada 5-1 in the semifinal on Thursday, Twitter was full of bullflop that attempted to attribute the outcome to the Americans' abundance — more than one-third of their lineup, including the goalie! — of players who play in the Canadian Hockey League.
Three guesses which iconic commentator wrapped himself in the flag and protectionism. The first two do not count.
When you bring players from other countries into the best junior league in the world (Canadian Hockey League) and develop them you've got
— Don Cherry (@CoachsCornerCBC) January 3, 2013
to expect results like this. It's that simple. But you win together & you lose together. Like I said, no excuses they beat us fair & square
— Don Cherry (@CoachsCornerCBC) January 3, 2013
Right, Grapes. Just like the main reason Canada's athlete of the year, Christine Sinclair, and her Olympic women's soccer teammates did so well is because they played in the NCAA.
The worst response is to take this seriously. To be fair to Cherry, at least this time he didn't imply American and European players should not be in the CHL like he did regarding Russia's Nail Yakupov a few weeks ago. That would cynically hypocritical coming from someone who promotes his brand by helping coach in the CHL Top Prospects Game, where his lineup later this month will include Team USA forward Ryan Hartman from the Plymouth Whalers, a U.S.-based OHL team.
The point is just to say, enough already. The improved depth of the world junior championship field, where hyped medal hopefuls can now end up in the relegation zone, makes it unpredictable. Canadians defensively pointing out the CHL presence on Team USA must have been the X factor makes no sense.
Beginning with John Gibson and continuing on through Seth Jones and his whole half-season with the Portland Winterhawks, Team USA's major junior guys have been very good for coach Phil Housley. Please keep in mind that Jones, Hartman and Toronto Maple Leafs power-winger prospect Tyler Biggs only came to the CHL this season, so 'major junior guy' is a misnomer.
In all, though, nine Team USA players have major junior background. The 2012 iteration that finished an embarrassing seventh had seven. That two-player swing was not a difference maker. Gibson, who chose the Kitchener Rangers over the University of Michigan, was outstanding in goal. However, their best attackers were John Gaudreau and Jake McCabe, respectively from the Boston College Eagles and the Wisconsin Badgers. Each scored two goals; another collegian, Jimmy Vesey from Harvard, added a single.
(As an aside: anyone who repeated the "McCabe has only two goals this season for Wisconsin but had two today" should watch this and then say he cannot be an active offensive defenceman.)
It's never one thing. Credit goes where credit is due, to several sources. There is no one way to get to the NHL. Claiming otherwise comes off as being a poor sport.
Gaudreau is an exemplar of the USHL-to-NCAA development path. His small physical stature contributed to him being available for the Calgary Flames to take in the fourth round of the 2011 draft. However, he produced big-time numbers by the standards of a 17-year-old in the USHL (72 points in 60 games) and has continued to do so through a season-and-a-half on Chestnut Hill.
Canada's entire lineup hails from major junior. But who cares? That tells you nothing about them.
There might be some broader argument that Canadians who take this tack are showing disrespect how much the U.S. sports industry does for countless Canuck athletes in other sports. (Wait, there are other sports?) The University of Portland can't take the lioness' share of the credit for alumna Christine Sinclair's success, but it helped the 29-year-old advance during her teens and early 20s. The same goes for all the basketball players from Cherry's corner of the world, Southern Ontario, who are elevating the country's hoops reputation — the Cleveland Cavaliers' Tristan Thompson, Orlando Magic rookie Andrew Nicholson, UNLV's Anthony Bennett, Michigan State's Nik Stauskas and high school phenom Andrew Wiggins. You want to be defensive about Americans and Europeans thriving in the CHL, then credit the NCAA for helping Canadians in a way this country either cannot or will not do itself.
By the way, Sweden is in the gold-medal game, presumably all because two of forwards, Rickard Rakell and Victor Rask, respectively skate for the OHL's Plymouth Whalers and WHL's Calgary Hitmen. Hopefully that sarcasm was not too oblique. The point here is there's no need to stretch for the broad, all-encompassing argument after your country's team totally geeks it in a big game. It's just a bunch of stuff that happened.
Canada won 5 straight golds, and then doesn't win for 4 straight years. It's either Canadian hockey is dying, or regression to the mean.
— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) January 3, 2013
To paraphrase Jack Morris,the sun will come up (later) today. Hold off on your angst with Team Canada.Anything can happen in a one off.
— Steve Clark (@SteveClarkMedia) January 3, 2013
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org (video: TSN).