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HOT CORNER: Is it time for world junior hockey ch’ship to adopt new format?

['Joe MacIntyre']
['Joe MacIntyre']

A look at some surprise teams at halfway mark of NHL season

The world junior hockey championship tournament appears to be losing some of its shine.
Maybe it is just the sparse crowds in Buffalo, or having to go through the preliminary round before the good games start with the playoffs on Tuesday. There has not been much to get excited about after the first three days, but that could, and maybe should, be changed.
Does the championship need 10 teams with teams like Denmark?
Six or eight teams would make for much better games early in the tournament, with the seventh- and eighth-seeded teams having to qualify to get there. That still allows teams like Denmark a chance as it is a world championship, and teams should at least have a chance to compete.
Reducing the number of teams would allow for a chance to have a best-of-three final. Most are hoping for a Canada-United States final, and having these two rivals in a best-of-three series would be great to watch.

Halfway point
The NHL is approaching the halfway point of its season, and there are few teams that are doing better than expected.
The Vegas Golden Knights are the talk of hockey, and without a doubt are the biggest surprise this season. They continue to beat very good teams, and are in first place in the Western Conference. Unless they have a long slump, they’ll be a playoff team.
If it were not for the Knights’ success, the New Jersey Devils would be the talk of hockey. They finished dead last in the Eastern Conference last year, but have made a drastic improvement this year and have vaulted themselves to second-place overall in the Eastern Conference, trailing only the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Devils looked great in the Kraft Hockeyville game in Summerside last September, have continued to play well and are contenders.
The Winnipeg Jets have the most points of all Canadian teams. The Jets would have to be considered the Canadian team with the best chance to win the Stanley Cup. They are a tough team to play against, and feature a great combination of size, toughness and speed.
Bruce Cassidy has done a heck of a job since taking over as coach of the Boston Bruins last season. They are playing inspired hockey as the best line in hockey leads the way. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak have a combined 89 points and, along with the rest of the Bruins, have put themselves in a position as a solid contender in the Eastern Conference.
A lot can change between now and playoff time, but the Golden Knights, Devils, Jets and Bruins should be four of the 16 teams in this season’s NHL playoffs.

Vegas Fan Club
Many locals are jumping on the bandwagon of the Golden Knights. As longtime Montreal Canadiens’ fan Darcy Ellis says, “It is great that we have Turk’s (Gerard Gallant) team to cheer when your favourite team is all but out of playoff contention.”
Push over Darcy, there are many local Detroit Red Wings’ fans looking for room on that bandwagon.
The Knights play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday at 4:30 p.m., local time, in a game on Sportsnet.

New Year’s resolutions
Many will include getting more exercise, or losing weight, in their New Year’s resolutions.
It takes about 21 days to form a new habit, and that is the toughest part. As I read recently about habits, bad habits are easy to get into and hard to get out of, and good habits are hard to get into and easy to get out of.
Get those 21 days in, and then it gets easier. Remember what Vince Lombardi, one of the best coaches in NFL history, used to say, “Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.”
Just don’t quit. Have a safe and Happy New Year, and all the best in 2018.

Joe MacIntyre is a Summerside resident. His column appears every Saturday. Comments and suggestions can be sent to j-mac@eastlink.ca.

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