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The world revolves around Canada at the U20 WJHC

Switzerland beat Germany 4-3 in the opening game of the tournament, despite Germany outshooting the Swiss big time.  Clearly, Switzerland belongs at this event while Germany doesn't. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Switzerland beat Germany 4-3 in the opening game of the tournament, despite Germany outshooting the Swiss big time. Clearly, Switzerland belongs at this event while Germany doesn't. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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In Canada, the common complaint outside of the Great Lakes region is that the national media, based in Toronto, displays an awful lot of self-interest.  Toronto is the center of the universe, as the common expression goes.  At the World Juniors, that self-interest often gets replaced by substituting a Toronto team for the national team, even if there are more westerners on the team than good 'ole Ontario boys.  It's a rare chance for the Toronto media to declare their love for anything outside the 416.

In this case, though, the media outside the centre tends to follow.  No thought is given for anyone other than the Canadian audience, who hate to see Canada play the role of bully and beat up on a relatively hockey poor nation like Norway (even if the HSBC crowd cheers as loud for goal #10 as they did for goal #1 last night).  The same argument used against NHL expansion is brought out on an annual basis against the ten team format at the World Junior Hockey Championships.  Nevermind that Germany pushed Slovakia to overtime and outplayed Switzerland but lost, they don't belong with the big boys.  No analysis is needed of Norway keeping the Czechs close (losing 2-0), the Czechs are a traditional power and Norway is small time. The whole idea seems to revolve around Canada never seeing these teams, they're offensive to our eyes and we can't be bothered to learn anything about them.

Of course, none of these same media has probably looked into the situation with any depth beyond noticing the blowouts by Canada, USA, Russia and Sweden to these teams.  They also don't think through that the whole aspect of relegation would simply be extended to the 8th place team, meaning that one of the countries with a national broadcaster at this event, Slovakia, would've been in Division 1 this year if such a rule had been in place, The media covering the event on an annual basis would be even more Canadian than it currently is, jeopardizing the growth of hockey and the event in general.  The popularity of these events isn't brought down by one or two uncompetitive games in the first week, it's enhanced by allowing fans from eight to ten different countries to see the best junior aged players each country has to offer.

Below the top division, the IIHF is re-aligning the divisions in order to make them more competitive on an annual basis.  It involves putting teams against their closest competition, and only promoting and relegating one team to the next level each year from those groups.  It's a policy that could, and should be expanded to the championship level.  Keep ten teams, and keep the six team playoff round, but divide up the groups differently.  Put the teams ranked 1-5 in one group, and the teams ranked 6-10 in the second.  The top five teams all make the playoffs, while the winner of the 6-10 group makes it as well.  Teams ranked 1 and 2 after the group stage get their bye to the semis, while 3 plays the 6th place team, and 4th plays the 5th place team in the other quarterfinal.  The losers of the quarterfinal still play a 5th place game, as they do today, but it'll have much greater meaning:  the winner stays in the top group with a guaranteed playoff spot next year, while the loser has to prove themselves against the 7th-10th seeds in order to make the playoffs again. 

This way, the elitism of certain hockey nations will be satisfied, and the games avoid blowouts for the most part.  Last year, Russia placed 6th and Switzerland 4th, so it wouldn't avoid the blowout possibility completely, but both the coverage of the event and the competition level would be enhanced by having Canada in a group with the USA, Sweden, Switzerland and Finland while Russia battles with the Czechs, Slovaks, Germans and Norwegians for a chance at the title. The pre-tournament exhibition games could be used for the teams from Group A and Group B to play each other.

In time, such a tournament could be allowed to expand to an eight team playoff round if the competition level demanded it.  But right now, contracting the tournament (why Canadians are so against growth of the sport is beyond me) will do a lot more harm than good. 

Side note, Chris Peters over at the United States of Hockey likes the format in all it's current form.  And maybe it would prove better than my proposal.  Personally, though, I think only one team should be relegated every year, as Germany is proving to be more competitive than pretty much every other team from the 'field', as Neate Sager refers to them.