FIDDLER’S FACTS: World junior tournament in Atlantic Canada begins Boxing Day
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CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI – The World Junior Hockey Championships begins on Boxing Day and is usually a great event for hockey-mad Canadian fans.
Moncton, NB and Halifax are co-hosting the tournament and I expect full houses at both venues.
Team Canada is one of the favorites and has the most hyped player of the tournament – Western Hockey League star Connor Bedard, the likely No. 1 pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.
Other Canadian standouts to watch in a tournament teeming with talent include Shane Wright and Adam Fantilli.
Team USA boasts outstanding defenseman Luke Hughes, who, like his talented brothers, both NHL stars, is extremely skilled with the puck.
Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes plays about 25 minutes a night with 27 points in 27 games while Jack is a skilled center and top scorer (16-20 – 36 points) with New Jersey.
The surprise team could be Finland, who lost the gold medal match to Canada last year. This small country of less than six million people returns with a concentrated lineup.
Joakim Kemell, Nashville’s first-round pick in 2022, is joined at the top by Brad Lambert and Roni Hirvonen, giving Finland one of the medals assured.
The NHL All-Star Showcase takes place on February 4 in Sunrise, Florida. The NHL will honor the amazing ex-Toronto Maple Leaf Dave Keon, who was named one of the NHL’s 100 Greatest Players last year.
Keon’s greatest year with the Leafs was 1970-71, when he scored 38 goals and added 38 assists for 76 points while playing on a line with Charlottetown right wing Billy MacMillan and left wing Garry Monahan. MacMillan scored 22 goals in his freshman year with the Leafs and was in the running for Rookie of the Year, which was won by Gilbert Perreault.
It would be nice if the Leafs included MacMillan in these celebrations.
PEI hockey fans are still talking about the recent UNB-UPEI men’s hockey match, which was won by UNB 3-2. Tickets for the U Sports National Championship are available March 16-19 at the Eastlink Center.
Eight of Canada’s top university men’s hockey teams will be here including UPEI and likely UNB so book your tickets now at the Eastlink ticket office or contact UPEI’s Bruce Donaldson.
Frank MacIntyre, a sometimes larger than life character, has died. In his early days, MacIntyre was a City Fastball League standout with the Tack Room, but is better known here in the province and across Canada for decades as a great advocate for physically challenged athletes.
MacIntyre coached Team Canada’s goalball team to a silver medal at the 2002 World Paralympic Games. In 1999, he received the King Clancy Award for years of volunteer work with people with physical disabilities. A good guy, so sad.
I hope Santa has a nice present for Billy McGuigan, who led Team Canada East to a silver medal at the recent World Junior A Hockey Challenge in Cornwall, Ontario. Canada East lost the gold medal game 5-2 to Team USA, but it was still a remarkable feat.
Parents Brenda and Barney McGuigan bake treats for Billy. I hope he shares with Brother Mike.
The NFL enters its 16th week with playoff-like games on December 24th and 25th. It’s hard to imagine, but Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still playoff-bound in first place in the woeful NFC South.
Brady and Tampa are four-point favorites against Arizona — an easy cover.
Hungry Detroit travels to Carolina. The spread is a meager three points. Love these lions – a simple cover.
The New York Giants need a win in Minnesota. Minnesota’s defense has been ragged in recent weeks, and the G-Men are keeping their playoff hopes alive with a three-point dog win.
Philadelphia travel to Dallas, who lost to Jacksonville in overtime last week. With or without QB Jalen Hurts, Philly has enough to get past Dallas, which was terrible last week. Backup Philly QB Gardner Minshew, 8-14 lifetime but with a sharp 40 TDs and just 12 interceptions, is no ordinary backup. Dallas is a four-point favorite, but not on my books.
… Live racing returns with 15 dashes to Red Shores Charlottetown Boxing Day. First post is 12:30 p.m. The $3,500 feature in Race 14 has Navalny, Mantario, Moonwriter, Blood Money, Burn Out Hanover and Stash It Away off the rails. The Open Mares class got even tougher as Share the Moment defeated Dreamfare Zenfire and Acefortyfour Dome. They meet again in the $3,000 Race 9.
…Dan MacIsaac’s JK’s Last Chance continues to move through the classes with four straight wins, including a 1:55-and-change rout on the last start. On Dec. 26, it moves up slightly into the $2,800 bracket, where it will walk away with less than even money. He’s a top horse.
… Last week, Montague rider and rising star Austin Sorrie won the $13,000 top class at the Western Fair with Beachin Lindy. This week, veteran pilot Paul MacKenzie won the same feature with the Terry Gallant-trained Sea Laird in 1:55, one of two wins on the coach-driver map.
Fred MacDonald’s column appears in the Guardian every Saturday. He can be reached at [email protected]