The season is upon us!
Once you’ve opened your Christmas presents, cleaned up the plate of cookies you left out for Santa (we all know who really eats them), and celebrated the season of giving with a cozy cup of mulled wine, it’s time to look forward to the calendar’s next big holiday: Valentine’s Day.
Or, at least that’s how the rest of the world does it.
For us folks in the Great White North, Boxing Day doesn’t just mean an extra day off and the completion of Christmas. Nope. Around here, Boxing Day signifies the start of the World Junior Championships, which has become ingrained into the holiday traditions of many hockey loving families across the nation.
And this year for the first time ever, from December 26 – January 2nd, it’s right here in our backyard at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre (SOFMC). Victoria hosts two Canadian pre-tournament games, 10 round robin matches, and 2 quarter final matchups before it all wraps up in Vancouver.
The tournament will attract thousands of visitors from around the world, and given the small size of Victoria, should create an infectious vibe throughout the city.
Here’s how to get the most out of it!
1. Know who’s playing in Victoria
Victoria will play host to Group B, which consists of Finland, Kazakhstan, Slovakia, Sweden, and the United States of America.
Though Canada will play their tournament in Vancouver, from a purely hockey standpoint, Victoria’s group is juicy. Sweden, Finland, and USA have combined for 6 of the last 9 gold medals, and have elite level national programs. There will be no shortage of top talent and future NHLers playing at Save-On-Foods Memorial Center this holiday season.
Finland vs. Sweden (December 26th, 7:30pm) will continue a long-standing Scandinavian rivalry, while USA vs. Sweden (December 29th, 7:30pm) always offers a showcase of slick skills and future NHL talent. Be sure to mark December 31st on your calendar, when the two top ranked prospects for the 2019 draft – USA’s Jack Hughes and Finland’s Kaapo Kakko – go head-to-head in a New Year’s Eve showdown.
Top Matchups in Group B:
- December 26th, 7:30pm
- Finland vs. Sweden
- December 29th, 7:30pm
- USA vs. Sweden
- December 31st, 7:30pm
- USA vs. Finland
2. Check out The Cabin at the Victoria Curling Club
The Victoria Curling Club will be completely transformed into a place that will make anyone with hockey in their blood proud to be Canadian. The Cabin will be an all ages venue that is completely free to the public – a spot where that infectious World Junior spirit will be impossible to miss.
Suitable for the family or for you and your hockey homies, The Cabin will blend the local flavours of Victorians with the community spirit that hockey has to offer. Live local bands, beer gardens, food trucks, a games area, a kids fun section, and a smile or two will be available all tournament. All you have to do is stroll through that big blue awning, and enjoy.
Molson has the honor of being the primary beer supplier, ensuring the entire venue has more Canadian spirit than you can shake a hockey stick at. Vancouver Island Brewery will keep the local beer connoisseur in you satiated, while Coast Lunch and Poutine Authentique will handle your inevitable desire to douse something in gravy and devour it.
This Friday, December 21st will kick off a great few weeks to be a Victorian as the World Juniors officially launches with a 5:00 p.m. tune-up match between Canada and Slovakia at SOFMC. Immediately following the game, The Cabin will open its doors around 7:30 p.m. for the first time. Take in some local live musical talent, delicious food, a massive big screen projector, and that game called hockey.
Here is The Cabin’s full schedule:
- Fri. Dec. 21: 7:30 p.m.
- Wed. Dec. 26: 2 p.m. -1 a.m.
- Thurs. Dec. 27: 2 p.m. -1 a.m.
- Fri. Dec. 28: 5 p.m. -1 a.m.
- Sat. Dec. 29: 2 p.m. -1 a.m.
- Sun. Dec. 30: 5 p.m. -1 a.m.
- Mon. Dec. 31: 2 p.m. -1 a.m.
- Wed. Jan. 2: 12 p.m. -1 a.m.
3. Take in the two best full days of hockey
With all due respect to Kazakhstan – who are returning to the World Juniors for the first time in a decade – the best days to catch both games at SOFMC will be when they’re not in action and the other four group members are battling it out. Namely: December 26th and December 29th.
December 26th is Day One of the tournament, and a great day of hockey to kick the tournament off. USA and Slovakia will christen the first sheet of World Junior ice at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre at 3:30 p.m., and the tournament won’t look back from there. Finland and Sweden will cap the evening off with a classic matchup loaded with future NHL talent and a long-standing rivalry. Puck drops at 7:30 p.m. for that one.
December 29th sees another full day of quality matchups, with Slovakia and Finland priming the audience at 3:30 p.m. for what should be a decisive day for the group. Sweden and USA will showcase a battle of the Group B heavyweights, playing in prime time at 7:30 p.m. The winner of this tilt might end up claiming the entire group.
Top two days of hockey:
- Wednesday, December 26th
- USA vs. Slovakia, 3:30 p.m.
- Finland vs. Sweden, 7:30 p.m.
- Saturday, December 29th
- Slovakia vs. Finland, 3:30 p.m.
- Sweden vs. USA, 7:30 p.m.
4. Watch for these top NHL prospects playing in Victoria
More hardcore hockey fans will appreciate the chance to see top NHL prospects play right before your eyes. The skill level is always evident on TV, but watching in person is always more impressive. And of course, your eyes aren’t limited to a TV camera.
American defenseman Quinn Hughes will draw the most interest from folks on the island, as the smooth skating defender was selected 7th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. He is tearing up the NCAA circuit this season, with 3 goals and 17 assists in just 17 games. Canuck fans are salivating at the prospect of him joining the big club at season’s end.
An exciting development is the fact both Jack Hughes (USA) and Kaapo Kakko (Finland) will be showcasing their sublime skill sets in Victoria. Hughes is the top rated player for the 2019 NHL Draft, while Kakko is rated second. It’s a tournament for aged 19 players, but these two 17-year olds will undoubtedly make some noise.
Here is a curated list of intriguing players to watch in Victoria: **
- Aleksi Heponiemi, Forward, Florida Panthers, 40th in 2017
- Jesse Ylonen, Forward, Montreal Canadiens, 35th in 2018
- Rasmus Kupari, Forward, Los Angeles Kings, 20th in 2018
- Kaapo Kakko, Forward, Projected 2nd overall for 2019 NHL draft
- Adam Boqvist, Defense, Chicago Blackhawks, 8th in 2018
- Erik Brannstrom, Defense, Vegas Golden Knights, 15th in 2017
- Rasmus Sandin, Defense, Toronto Maple Leafs, 29th in 2018
- Nils Lundqvist, Forward, New York Rangers, 18th in 2018
- Isac Lundestrom, Forward, Anaheim Ducks, 23rd in 2018
- Jacob Olofsson, Forward, Montreal Canadiens, 56th in 2018
United States of America
- Quinn Hughes, Defense, Vancouver Canucks, 7th in 2018
- K’Andre Miller, Defense, New York Rangers, 22nd in 2018
- Dylan Samberg, Defense, Winnipeg Jets, 43rd in 2017
- Mattias Samuelsson, Defense, Buffalo Sabres, 32nd in 2018
- Joel Farabee, Forward, Philadelphia Flyers, 14th in 2018
- Jack Hughes, Forward, Projected 1st overall for 2019
- Tyler Madden, Forward, Vancouver Canucks, 68th in 2018
- Josh Norris, Forward, San Jose Sharks, 19th in 2017 (rights owned by Ottawa Senators)
- Jay O’Brien, Forward, Philadelphia Flyers, 19th in 2018
- Ryan Poehling, Forward, Montreal Canadiens, 25th in 2017
- Oliver Wahlstrom, Forward, New York Islanders, 11th in 2018
- Martin Fehervary, Defense, Washington Capitals, 46th in 2018
- Milos Roman, Forward, Calgary Flames, 122nd in 2018
- Adam Ruzicka, Forward, Calgary Flames, 109th in 2017
**Final rosters subject to change
5. Get your Canada jerseys ready!
Nothing says “Canadian” more than a mass of people decked out in red and white jerseys with maple leafs plastered on them. The kicker? There’s literally a guy playing hockey in the maple leaf. Hockey Canada knows how to pick a logo.
This Friday, December 21st (tomorrow) will be Jersey Day, where you can show off your Canadian pride and get Victoria primed to welcome the world. Represent!
6. Follow Canada’s schedule from home!
There will be ample opportunity to take in some quality puck here in Victoria, but the deep rooted desire to cheer on our nation’s boys will inevitably compel you. The Cabin will be a great venue to support Canada from, but your own living room or a favourite bar downtown will work superbly as well.
Here is Canada’s full round robin schedule!
- Wednesday, December 26th
- vs Denmark at 5 p.m.
- Thursday, December 27th
- vs Switzerland at 5 p.m.
- Saturday, December 29th
- vs Czech Republic at 5 p.m.
- Monday, December 31st
- vs Russia at 5 p.m.
By the way, New Year’s Eve sees Canada take on Russia at 5 p.m. in Vancouver, followed by USA vs. Finland at 7:30 p.m. in Victoria. If you’re the type of fan who will watch two great games of hockey, you probably want to head down to The Cabin for some New Year’s Eve puck. It will be a superb day of hockey.
7. Meet some travelling fans!
Victoria’s infamous tourism industry will get a jolt this winter with the World Juniors welcoming thousands of fans from around the globe. Be sure to greet them with open arms and show them we’re about more than just hockey pucks and poutine.
To help you out, here’s how to say “hi” in the native languages of the 5 teams playing in Victoria!
- “Hi” in Swedish: “Hej”
- “Hi” in Finnish: “Hei”
- “Hi” in Slovak: “Ahoj”
- “Hi” in Kazakh: “Sälemetsiz be” (good luck with pronunciation)
- “Hi” in American: “Go back where you came from.” Just kidding. Be nice to our American friends.