For the first time since 2005, the IIHF World Junior Championship, a holiday hockey tradition, will get underway on Christmas Day. Three games highlight the opening-day schedule before Canada’s National Junior Team begins defence of its gold medal against Germany on Boxing Day.
Hockey Canada and the host committee, on behalf of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), unveiled the full tournament schedule Monday. All 28 games will be played at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alta., from Dec. 25, 2020 to Jan. 5, 2021.
As the situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, it was announced last month, through careful consideration with provincial and federal health authorities, that the World Juniors would be played without fans.
“A tremendous amount of planning has been underway for almost two years and announcing the schedule signifies how close we are to puck drop,” said, Riley Wiwchar, executive director of the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. “After announcing the return of the tournament last month, there is a feeling, even knowing there won’t be fans in the building, of excitement and anticipation across the province and extending across the country as fans get set to cheer on the future stars of the game.”
The 10-team tournament features Canada in Group A with Finland, Germany, Slovakia and Switzerland. Group B is comprised of Austria, the Czech Republic, Russia, Sweden and the United States.
In addition to Canada’s Boxing Day match-up with Germany, it will also play Slovakia on Dec. 27 and Switzerland on Dec. 29 before closing out the preliminary round with a New Year’s Eve showdown with Finland.
TSN and RDS, the official broadcast partners of Hockey Canada, will carry extensive game coverage and analysis throughout the World Juniors, including all 28 tournament games and all 10 pre-tournament games that begin Dec. 20. TSN Radio will also provide comprehensive tournament coverage, with details to be announced at a later date.
Tunisia, to put it mildly, does not often give birth to hockey players, but now the North African country can be proud of a historic event – the first women hockey player with Tunisian roots playing in Canada.
Her name is Sirin Kasem and her parents are from Tunisia. She has been playing hockey since she was 7 years old, and since season 18/19 Sirin has been playing for the Quebec A’s from the Quebec Triple-A League. At the end of the 19/20 season, Sirin scored 13 goals in 22 games and took 12th place in the league’s top scorers list, and the team won the main trophy – The Cup of Canada.
Everything is just beginning for me. The Cup of Canada is not the limit. I am grateful to my parents for everything they have done. They were always present at my games, they cheer me up after a bad games and taught me a lot, for example, to be persistent and strong. They have always supported me, and in the end it helped a lot, ”said Kassem.
Immediately after the end of the season, Sirin was invited to the QCHL (Quebec College Hockey League) team “Les Titans du Cégep Limoilou”. The head coach of the Titans, Pascal Dufresne, said that the attacking qualities of there new hockey player are excellent.
But Sirin’s dream has nothing to do with hockey. She wants to become a surgeon and is making every effort to make her dream come true.
Javokhir Rasulov allocated time for us and talked about himself, about the tasks for the season and about Uzbek hockey
Javokhir, hello. Tell us about your career, how did you come to hockey?
Hello. Yes, my career roughly speaking is just beginning. (Javokhir is 20 years old, he was born on February 6, 1999)
I started in Samara in the courtyard, I was 10-11 years old, and at the age of 12 I went to play professionally for CSK VVS children’s school, now it is called “Kometa”. and so it slowly went from there.
How was the transition to Humo?
I was happy that a team was created in my hometown. A gift of fate, It’s a great opportunity to become a good player, because I haven’t played for the last 2 years.
In your opinion, what should “Humo” count on this season, what is the task for the season?
The task is to get into the playoffs, the further the better. We have a good team, two experienced and two young teams, many have played in the KHL and MHL.
There are even hockey players with experience of playing overseas (defender Igor Merezhko and foward Vasily Aniskin played in the Canadian junior leagues,)
You are still the only hockey player in Humo from Uzbekistan, tell me, are you planning to strengthen the team with more local players in the future?
There is another guy in the second team, he started to play in Tashkent, but I think that within 5-7 years there will be more composition by local players. There are children born in 2007-2009, a couple of good guys, they play in the championship of Kazakhstan.
Javokhir Rasulov is proud to be playing for is home town team
“But the future of Uzbek hockey should be promising, because the entry of the clubs of the“ Humo ”system in various professional championships gave a good boost for future development.
I also think so, it’s very good that we have created two teams and the children will come to us and understand what real hockey is. People will bring their children and this will give a good reason for the children to think about starting to play hockey. Soon they want to create a national team. In general, we will develop.
Please share your impressions of the first game between Humo and Ryazan.
The first period did not go as we wanted, since we had not played for a long time. In the second period, we came out fast and scored alot of goals and followed the coach’s instructions. (“Humo” won with a score of 5: 0,)
Thank you very much to the fans for coming to support us. There were even more people for the game with Barça. I think that over time there will be full stands, but so far many do not know that such a game exists in Tashkent. Also tickets to the games are expensive and many may not want to spend their money.
Uzbekistan cannot be called a country remote from hockey. Many fans are familiar with the Binokor club, which played in the USSR championship. Quite a long time has passed since then. Since then have many people forgotten about hockey?
Well, don’t tell. You know, I once met people, even rode in a taxi once, asked “What are you doing?”, and when I talk about hockey, they immediately started to remember about Binokor club. People of a certain age of course remember about the club.
Can you tell us why Humo started to play in the VHL championship?
Well, it’s not for nothing that we got such a great arena (LOL)
Chairman of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation Dmitry Baskov held a ZOOM conference with President of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Rene Fasel on 14 October, BelTA learned from the website of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation.
The parties discussed preparations for the IIHF World Championship which is due to take place in Minsk and Riga on 21 May – 6 June 2021 and also the situation with other IIHF tournaments scheduled for the ongoing season.
“We had a rather constructive conversation with the IIHF head. Rene Fasel once again stressed the intention of the International Ice Hockey Federation to hold the World Championship in Minsk and Riga,” said Dmitry Baskov.
The parties touched upon the issues related to the possible need of introducing epidemiological measures for participants and guests of the tournament due to the worsening situation with the COVID-19 in Europe. “In any case, we are ready for any format of the World Championship and continue to prepare for it together with our Latvian partners,” added the chairman of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation.
Dmitry Baskov invited Rene Fasel to Minsk to assess the readiness of the Belarusian capital for the forthcoming forum.
Yu Sato was in flying form at the start of this year when Japan’s U20 raced through undefeated to win gold at the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group A with the debutant who was then just 17 years old
Having already suited up for teams on three different continents, it´s all part of the masterplan for 18-year-old prospect Yu Sato to one day enter Japanese ice hockey folklore.
“I want to become the first Japanese outfield player in the NHL. It is a dream I’ve had since I started to play hockey at the age of three,” said the Saitama-born forward, whose rookie season with the Quebec Remparts in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) came to an abrupt end following the COVID-19 lockdown.
Having previously played junior hockey in Russia and Finland, Sato’s credentials were put to a severe test in Canada’s Eastern province of Quebec during the 2019/2020 season. Skating against mostly older opponents such as top NHL entry draft pick Alexis Lafreniere became a notch up in quality for the Japanese prospect. After overcoming an early season injury, relentless competition for places saw playing time eventually become limited as he finished the season on four goals and six assists in 39 games for the Remparts.
“Each country I’ve played in has a different style of hockey which helps develop me as a player. In Quebec it was a physical game against older players where you had to make fast decisions playing on a smaller sheet,” said Sato, whose style of play makes him a rare commodity in Japanese hockey.
“The typical player in Japan is playing along the wings and always thinking to pass, pass and pass. Sato is very different. He always wants to shoot and his mind is always on scoring,” said Japan’s head coach Yuji Iwamoto of a player he hopes can lead the way for the men’s program to earn a place at the 2026 Winter Olympics.
Yu Sato in action during the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group A
While NHL and the Olympics might still be a distant dream for Sato, another life-long ambition was fulfilled at the start of this year. Making his debut for Japan, Sato was in imperious form as Nippon raced to gold at the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group A in Vilnius, Lithuania.
“It was my dream to represent my country and it was an amazing experience. I always wanted to play for Japan. I hope to get to the top division someday and I want to help Japan reach that level,” he said.
At the age of 11, Sato’s ambitions had already outgrown his native Japan. With Alexander Ovechkin being Sato’s hero as a kid, where better to speed up the development than in “Ovi’s” native Russia? The junior set-up of Krylia Sovetov in the Moscow region became Sato’s first port of call on his hockey odyssey.
“In Japan we had no junior league and only played tournaments. In Russia I was able to fully focus on hockey and there were lots of games. At first, it was hard. The culture was different and so was the style of hockey. I didn’t know Russian or English back then, so I was working from hand gestures on how to do things,” said Sato.
His parents took turns to stay with their son during a five-year Russian stint. There the Japanese teenager picked up the Russian language while relentlessly honing skills out on the ice that set him apart from his contemporaries.
“I mainly improved my physicality and skating in Russia. I was faster than the Russian players, so I came to use that to my advantage,” said Sato.
Yu Sato (left) celebrates Japan’s gold medal at the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group A together with head coach Teruhiko Okita (right)
Topping the scoring charts for Krylia, he soon caught the eye of one of Russia’s all-time greats, Igor Larionov. The Triple Gold Member took Sato under his wings. When import restrictions closed the door for Sato to progress into Krylia’s MHL team, Larionov found him a new challenge in Finland.
“I first tried to go to the Lahti Pelicans, but there they said I wasn’t going to get much game time, so I went to Kiekko-Vantaa instead. It was a good experience. The hockey was different from Russia as it was much faster,” Sato said of the 2018/19 season where he notched 80 points (37+43) in 37 games for various Kiekko-Vantaa junior teams.
Ahead of this season, it was once again Larionov, who had rolled up his sleeves to find Sato a spot on the Quebec Remparts roster. Playing in a home arena in Quebec City with 18,000 seats and facing top talent took him momentarily one step closer towards the NHL dream only one Japanese-born and trained player has fulfilled so far.
In 2007, netminder Yutaka Fukufuji clocked up 97 minutes for the Los Angeles Kings. The closest a Japanese skater has come to the NHL is Yushiroh Hirano, who last season notched an assist in his sole appearance for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the AHL. Hirano was back skating in his second spell in the ECHL last season together with another Japanese forward, Yuri Terao.
Sato is realistic about his prospects on what is still a long road ahead. Having returned to Japan during the COVID-19 pandemic, he now ponders the next destination on a hockey odyssey where he one day hopes to be locking horns with Lafreniere once again.
“As it is right now I can say that it’s not possible to be drafted, but I will continue to work hard every day to reach my dream,” Sato said.
Shane Wright’s never accepted losing. Not even as a toddler.
“Shane has this other edge,” his mother, Tanya, told theScore. “When he was young I had to discipline him for it. It was embarrassing. It would be like three-year-old ‘sportball,’ and he would be losing his mind at three-year-olds who weren’t doing it right or trying hard enough.”
Wright’s competitiveness extends beyond sports, even boiling over into family game nights.
“There’s been the odd board that has ended upside down before it’s over,” his father, Simon, said.
Wright admitted his intensity always shows up, regardless of what’s at stake.
“Everything I do, I want to win,” he said. “I’m also kind of a perfectionist. I hold myself to high standards. I want to win in whatever I do. Whether it’s a board game or a sport or whatever it is, I’m competitive and I want to win it.”
That competitive nature and that will to win, while sometimes embarrassing for his parents when he was growing up, has helped Wright blossom into a potential generational hockey player. Even though he’s only 16 years old and not NHL draft eligible until 2022, he’s already drawn comparisons to Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, and John Tavares – the next ones that came before him.
Wright was granted exceptional status into the OHL last year as a 15-year-old, and scored 39 goals and finished with 66 points in 58 games with the Kingston Frontenacs. His point total matched McDavid’s from his age-15 season, but Wright played five fewer games. Of the five players before Wright to be granted exceptional status into the CHL (Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, McDavid, Sean Day, and Joe Veleno), only Tavares had more points in his rookie season (77 in 65 games).
The talent’s obvious. Already listed at 6-feet and 183 pounds – and still growing – Wright’s a strong skater with a heavy shot and elite hockey IQ. Talent only takes a player so far, though. Intangibles are what make Wright special enough to be mentioned in the same conversations as McDavid, Crosby, and Tavares.
“I think what Shane brings is that quiet, unassuming leadership with his drive and determination,” NHL director of central scouting Dan Marr said. “When other players on a team see that the best player is out there as the hardest worker, and wanting to win every battle, wanting to be on every puck, wanting to make things happen out there, that’s infectious.”
Marr has a wide lens on the game’s top prospects and even though his primary focus is generally on the immediate draft class, he still watched Wright in person “about a half dozen times” this season.
Frontenacs assistant coach Luca Caputi, meanwhile, had a front-row seat to observe Wright on a daily basis during his Rookie of the Year season in the OHL. He was equally impressed by his work ethic, maturity, and leadership.
“Every young player that comes through our organization for the next two years will look up to him, just because of the way he does it right every day,” Caputi – who spent parts of three seasons in the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs – said.
“When you have those intangibles – and I was lucky enough to play with Crosby – when you’re the best player and you work the hardest and you have the right goals and you’re a good person off the ice, people follow you. People you want around are going to follow you.”
Wright became the youngest player in CHL history to get a letter on his jersey when he was named assistant captain in December. Caputi thinks he could “100%” be an NHL captain someday.
“I talk a lot about being like Crosby, and that’s not fair, and a lot of pressure to put on a kid, but I see some of those similarities just in the way he goes about his business,” Caputi added.
Crosby and Wright possess different on-ice strengths – the former’s more of a playmaker and the latter more of a goal-scorer – but there are some similarities in how each grew up.
“I think it was pretty embarrassing for my parents when people walked by and saw all the holes in our garage,” Wright said jokingly.
“So embarrassed,” Tanya acknowledged with a laugh. “I know we brought the value of the whole neighborhood down.”
Simon added about the door: “I’m surprised it actually still went up and down.”
All those reps on the driveway helped Wright develop a lethal shot on the ice – one that impressed Caputi immediately.
“I think his first goal in the league, I believe his third or fourth game, was an eye-popping goal,” Caputi recalled. “He just caught it on his off wing on the dot in the offensive zone and he went back bar. I think it hit every bar in the net and you said, ‘Oh! There it is.'”
Even though his release was already a strength, Caputi said Wright missed the net a lot early in the season. And so the teenager put in the necessary work to hone his accuracy.
“We do it every day after practice,” Caputi said. “From his one spot on the power play, he might’ve had 5,000 (shots) this year. That’s how committed he is to his craft.”
The work eventually paid off. After starting with six goals in his first 17 games, Wright ended the season scoring 33 times in his final 41 contests. Despite his individual success, though, Kingston finished the season with only 19 wins in 62 games – the third-lowest total in the 20-team league.
“We didn’t win a heck of a lot of games this year, so when you face adversity you see people’s true character and he really cares,” Caputi said. “I’d say the winning aspect, even some of the games when he thought he could play better, that’s when you see that he really cares. Extra reps the next day, staying late to watch video. That’s somebody you want to build your identity and your core around.”
At the end of the day, it’s simple: Wright’s commitment to winning stems from his hatred of losing, which he’s known he’s detested since he began walking. It’s cost him at times – when he “literally exploded with anger” during a centipede skirace his family was losing at a summer cottage, according to Tanya, and when he was slide tackling as a six-year-old during soccer games. But Wright’s matured and learned to harness his competitiveness; in fact, it’s become his biggest strength.
“He hates losing,” Simon reiterated. “He competes to win every single time.”
Wright, it seems, has that fire inside him, that sets the elite of the elite apart, that is required to be the best, and to be “the next one.”
The Finnish Ice Hockey Federation has confirmed that the 2020 Karjala Cup will be held accordance with the new health regulations.
The competition will take place at the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland from November 5th-8th, 2020.
A maximum attendance of 4,500 will be allowed for games involving the Finnish national team, but all games without Finland’s participation will be held behind closed doors.
All participating teams will undergo testing for coronavirus before flying to Finland and upon arrival. That includes the Finnish national team, referees and everyone involved with the tournament.
Teams will stay in one hotel and will only be allowed to leave for training sessions and games. Designated shuttles will transport the teams to and from the Arena.
Growing up in Canada I was a huge hockey fan, but it wasn't until the 1972 summit series and the 1976 Canada Cup that I became a big fan of international hockey. The best players in world all playing on a sheet of ice.
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