In a decidedly untraditional year for Canada’s most enduring holiday hockey
tradition, there aren’t many things that look similar to a “normal” year of
the IIHF World Junior Championship.
Sure, the game on the ice is the same, but really … that’s about it.
One of the biggest changes has been the absence of fans in Edmonton, and
included among the 18,000 strong who would have filled the building for
Team Canada games are throngs of family and friends.
Instead, they are left to watch from home with the rest of Canada, hanging
on every word from Gord Miller, Ray Ferraro, James Duthie, Bob McKenzie,
Mark Masters and the rest of the TSN crew.
But Hockey Canada has made sure that even though they can’t be in Edmonton,
Team Canada families are getting the gold-medal treatment from afar.
During every game through the preliminary round, moms, dads, sisters and
brothers have been making appearances on TSN and on social media, showing
that distance is no obstacle when it comes to supporting Team Canada at the
And all of them are resplendent in red and white, many wearing the same red
heritage jerseys the Canadian contingent has worn for three of its first
(Those limited-edition jerseys are available for fans to purchase at the
official online store of Hockey Canada
That’s thanks to the Team Canada family program, which is going above and
beyond this year to ensure families are part of the World Juniors
experience, even if they’re doing it virtually.
Before the tournament started, families received care packages with
jerseys, toques, hats, scarves and other apparel. Those items typically
would come as Christmas gifts under the tree at the family hotel, but in
true 2020 fashion, the delivery method this year was boxes on the doorstep.
And then there’s the social aspect. Last year in Ostrava, Czech Republic,
families enjoyed a scavenger hunt, took trips to the Krakow, Auschwitz and
Birkenau concentration camps and toured the Silesian Ostrava Castle, among
a handful of other excursions.
This year? The main method of conversation is a WhatsApp group that has
been buzzing since Boxing Day, and Zoom calls to help the families interact
in the most face-to-face way possible considering the circumstances.
Just as it would be in a typical year, the goal is to bring families
together much the same way Hockey Canada does with the players, to make the
Garands in Victoria, B.C., and the Newhooks in St. John’s, N.L., feel as
close as if they were in the same room.
There have even been a couple of bubble birthdays to celebrate.
In addition to the social media posts and post-game FaceTimes, families
have connected to the players through personal videos, which were shown to
the team on Christmas Day in advance of the start of the tournament.
For many players who are spending their first holiday season apart from
their loved ones, and have been away from home since the start of selection
camp on Nov. 16, the videos served as a nice little touch of something
No one reaches the World Juniors alone. The tournament is a culmination of
years of commitment and dedication not only by the players, but by family
and friends who have been along for the ride.
The 12 days in Edmonton are an opportunity to say thank you, and to bring
the Hockey Canada family – from British Columbia to the Yukon, Alberta,
Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and
Newfoundland and Labrador – together.
More than 5,000 kilometres – literally from coast to coast – separate this
year’s World Juniors families, but thanks to Hockey Canada, they’ve never