Hockey for the holidays: Team Canada players hit the ice at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship

Hockey for the holidays: Team Canada players hit the ice at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship

For hockey-loving Canadians, one of the best parts of the holiday season comes after our white-bearded friend in the red suit drops in for his annual visit. For these fans there’s something better than Boxing Day sales to look forward to: Dec. 26 marks the kickoff of the International Ice Hockey Federation U20 Championships, which brings together the most talented young hockey players from around the globe, including our own Team Canada. The 2020 World Juniors will be held in Ostrava and Trinec, Czech Republic, between Dec. 26, 2019, and Jan. 5, 2020.

Canada’s National Junior Team gets the World Juniors started Thursday when it faces the United States for the 49th time. Both quads were picked by many experts as favourites to be world champions, so this opening game should be a hard-fought battle. The puck drops at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT, and as usual, you can watch it live on TSN and RDS, the official broadcasters of Hockey Canada.

TSN notes that this year’s team is the youngest ever to play the World Juniors, with an average age of just 18.6 years. Don’t be fooled by those baby faces however: according to Hockey Canada management coach Mark Hunter, the team was selected for their skills, talent, and whether they had the right stuff to round out a winning team.

Related read: Is Canadian hockey progressing for the better … or the worse?

One interesting note: even these elite athletes need a little help to make sure screen time doesn’t get in the way of getting enough shuteye. To stay in top form, TSN reports that the players are required to turn in their phones every night to team staff so they don’t stay up all night texting, playing games, or scrolling through social media:

Before turning in each night, Team Canada’s players turn in their phones to the team staff.

“The players understand they need to get to sleep, but do their friends? Do their families?” asked Hockey Canada director of men’s national teams Shawn Bullock. “Does everyone back home understand there is that major time change? We started explaining that in the summer, why we do those things and how important it’s going to be over here to get that quality of sleep, no disruptions with phones buzzing or anything of that nature.”

Defenceman Kevin Bahl is grateful for the policy, especially since his NHL rights were traded in a deal that broke around 11 pm in Vienna where Team Canada was training.

“If I had my phone I would’ve been up to 3 am so it’s good,” he said, “in my eyes at least.”

– TSN: Age only part of the story for youngest Team Canada

Among the athletes traveling with the team are five returnees from the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship in Vancouver and Victoria (Barrett Hayton, Alexis Lafrenière, Jared McIsaac, Ty Smith, Joe Veleno) and two players who won a silver medal with Canada’s National Men’s Summer U18 Team at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup (Quinton Byfield, Jamie Drysdale).

See the full schedule here.

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