It's that time of year again when families everywhere indulge in familiar holiday traditions.
When we think of the final weeks of December we often reflect on Christmas or Hannukah or even our tentative New Years plans.
However, for hockey lovers across the country, this time of year also signals the start of another winter tradition: The IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships (WJHC).
My dad and I kick this tradition into high gear each and every Boxing Day when the tournament officially starts. Not only is it a great way to bond with family over our national pastime, but it's also a welcome distraction from the sad realization that the winter holidays will soon come to a close.
Not familiar with this particular hockey tournament? Well, here's the gist:
First held 35 years ago, the competition features male hockey players under the age of 20 as they compete for gold. Ten of the world's greatest hockey nations all come together to vie for the boasting rights of being the "best" at hockey.
The WJHC has a long history of promoting the importance of good sportsmanship while the nurturing the skills that could potentially propel its talented youths to elite levels, like the National Hockey League (NHL).
And, considering the recent ongoing NHL lockout (yes, again), what better time to introduce your kids to an inspiring example of how hockey should be played — while promoting bonding, teamwork, the improvement of skills and discipline.
Unlike the NHL, these teenagers aren't playing for money or fame — they want to represent their country to the best of their ability. The accolades, scholarships and NHL offers could all eventually come later, but at that moment in time they are just proud to be wearing their nation's colours.
In this time of professional league lockouts and growing concerns over concussion-related injuries, the sport of hockey has received a slew of bad publicity of late that has cheapened the sport in the eyes of many. This is unfortunate. While there are clearly safety and health issues that need to be addressed, when played correctly hockey can be a graceful game and a bonding experience.
Canada has faired exceptionally well in this tournament over the years, having medalled in the last 14 consecutive years. All one needs to do is look at the numbers: Gold medals: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 Silver medals: 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2010, 2011 Bronze medals: 2000, 2001, 2012
So, this holiday season, support our youths as they compete on the global stage.
Be sure to catch Canada's first game of the tournament against Germany on Boxing Day at 4:30 a.m. (EST) or 1:30 a.m (PST).
Check out the RBC Hockey Never Stops video!