If Canada never wins another World Junior Championship for the rest of time, we can rest assured that this country's string of dominance over the past five years will never be forgotten.
Team Canada capped what was perhaps the most impressive triumph of them all Monday with a 5-1 win over the Swedes in the gold medal game.
No, they didn't run anyone over (except those poor Kazakhs), and they didn't dominate from start to finish. But that's what is so incredible about this team and this win. They didn't have the stacked roster of the 2005 squad that steamrolled the competition in Grand Forks. They didn't have the Jonathan Toews/Carey Price duo which led the red-and-white to gold in Leksand in 2007.
Many people second-guessed this team right from the start. They doubted whether an aging Pat Quinn could get the most out of a group of teenagers. They questioned the choice of Dustin Tokarski over Chet Pickard in net. They said the roster was too small. They said the blueline was weak.
Heading into the tournament, they weren't necessarily wrong. By all accounts, this team would have to fight tooth and nail to finish off the drive for five.
And you know what? They did. They showed the world how this game is meant to be played. They sent a clear message to one and all that they would not be denied.
It takes a special kind of toughness to rebound from what the Canadians had thrown at them. John Tavares showed that toughness when he picked up the pieces and almost single-handedly led his team back from the abyss in the New Year's Eve game against the Americans.
Jordan Eberle displayed incredible mental toughness in the semifinal in finding a way to light the lamp with just 5.4 seconds remaining to save Canada's tournament and reward millions of fans for daring to hope.
What this young man was able to do under enormous pressure is simply extraordinary. Picture yourself on the ice, just seconds away from devastating defeat, with 20,000 screaming fans watching your every move and millions more holding their breath in their living rooms, the weight of a nation on your shoulders.
Most seasoned veterans couldn't perform under those circumstances. Yet 18-year-old Jordan Eberle managed to focus on what had to be done—and he did it. No one watching that night will ever forget it.
That, friends, is what separates the winners from the losers.
To quote our prime minister, Team Canada simply knows how to win. Period.
Speaking of losers, the Swedes simply embarrassed the hockey world last night. No wonder they only managed one goal; they were too busy trying to dive, flop, fake, whine, and cheap shot their way to gold.
Jacob Markstrom should be unequivocally ashamed of his antics. His teammates largely have him to thank for beginning the cycle of frustration that eventually lost them the game. He started flopping around very early on, which inspired the Canadians to bury him.
The fans in Ottawa started booing, and that rattled Victor Hedman. He mugged Angelo Esposito after a collision with Markstrom that the goaltender knew full well was coming. Things snowballed from there, and Mattias Tedenby and David Ullstrom, among others, got in on the gong show.
The Swedes simply took the wrong approach to this game. They chose the trash talk route. Yes, they badly wanted revenge for last year's loss to Canada. But the way to do that is to work your butt off and develop a quiet confidence.
That's what Canada did. They knew they could beat this Swedish team, but they took nothing for granted. They knew what had to be done, and they went out and did their talking on the ice.
So, to John Tavares, Jordan Eberle, Cody Hodgson, P.K. Subban, Dustin Tokarski, and all the other heroes of Team Canada: You have written one of the greatest chapters of international hockey history. Remember it. Cherish it. Relive it again and again.
As Tavares shouted: "That's five, Canada, five!"
It never gets old.
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