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World Junior hockey 2013: IIHF failing to generate interest (unless you're in Canada)

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Enough is enough. If the IIHF World Juniors is going to be a world class event, it's time it promotes itself better, starting with releasing full highlight packages.

Ville Pokka was the victim of a vicious hit, but you wouldn't know about that from the highlights you could see.
Ville Pokka was the victim of a vicious hit, but you wouldn't know about that from the highlights you could see.
Bruce Bennett, Getty Images Sport

It is currently impossible for a fan of the World Junior Hockey Championships to watch every game of the tournament. If someone wanted to do so, either live or on tape delay, they would be out of luck... not every game is broadcast.

Three participating countries have no television broadcast for the event at all: Switzerland, Latvia, and Germany.

The Swiss hockey void during this time is filled by the Spengler Cup, which is very popular in its home country. Latvia is a proud hockey nation, and though I have watched a Latvian webcast of an U20 game at the Division 1A level from Belarus two years ago, they don't send a television crew to the main event since the chances of Latvia being competitive are virtually nil. Germany, meanwhile, has been up and down in the tournament much like Latvia, and doesn't have a huge hockey fanbase like Latvia despite the presence of a fairly popular domestic league.

So while the tournament is gaining popularity in major European hockey markets, we still have games with no broadcast. Earlier this week, there was no broadcast of a round robin game between Switzerland and Latvia. The Swiss won 7-2, proving the Latvian television executives right in the process. In the relegation round, it is hit or miss whether countries with broadcasting rights for the tournament will even bother to show their national teams play.

That's likely part of the reason why the IIHF is expanding the tournament playoffs next year to include the top four teams in every pool, meaning every team has to start with a quarterfinal and work their way to the final from there. It'll make the round robin much less exciting, but keep the television crews all there into the playoffs and hopefully all the way through to the final. The relegation round will also be somewhat compelling: it will be a best of 3 series between the two last place nations, and might be worth broadcasting if a more prominent hockey nation ends up in that series than the current round robin format.

But the IIHF has not done itself well in recent years in promoting the round robin as is, or keeping fans who want to experience more than what the event looks like through the Canadian lens. Check out the IIHF's official YouTube channel. All the highlights are taken from TSN, the Canadian broadcaster that essentially drives the revenues for this tournament. TSN editors format the highlights to fit for the Canadian audience on their flagship program SportsCentre, and in their view, Canadians aren't interested in Finland vs. Switzerland, Slovakia vs. Germany, or the Czech Republic vs. Latvia. Those three games, which were all incredibly competitive, were given token highlight packages that showed essentially the winning goals ... and that's it.

For my money, the most interesting game of the tournament was Finland vs. Switzerland. The game had it all: a medal contender on the ropes, down by two goals twice, a horrific gaffe by a defenseman leading to the go-ahead goal for the Swiss, a terrible cheapshot hit that spurred the final Finnish comeback, a late goal with the goalie pulled, and a five round shootout to end it that Finland very nearly lost. TSN provided all of 27 seconds of highlights of the event, showing Markus Granlund's late tying goal, his shootout winner, and Joonas Korpisalo's final save off of Sven Andrighetto. It provided no context to the drama of the game, and gave the fans virtually nothing more than the boxscore could've told them.

This is inexcusable. TSN can edit the highlights as they see fit for their programming, I have no issue with that, but by passing the duties of promoting the event to the network, the IIHF is making it hard for anyone outside of Canada to care about this tournament.

The IIHF tried during the last World Championships to webcast the games on YouTube. Eventually they had to stagger the start times for the webcasts as TV partners complained about the competition. That complaint is ridiculous, since I doubt anyone would choose watching the game on their laptop or mobile over an HDTV if they realistically had the option, but whatever. They still had the games on their YouTube channel for fans to watch at any point after the initial broadcast, as well as full highlight packages. It wouldn't be hard for the IIHF to put up style highlight packages that showed key goals, saves, hits, and more. It wouldn't be hard for the IIHF to put up Switzerland vs. Latvia on YouTube since no one was broadcasting the game anyways.

It really wouldn't be that hard for the IIHF to generate more interest in this tournament.

Since the IIHF and TSN didn't deem the most interesting game of the tournament worth recapping, here are some highlight packages, in Finnish, that I found on YouTube for their big comeback shootout win vs. Switzerland that kept them in the tournament.

First, the goals:

Now, the shootout:

And finally, the controversial headshot that Swiss centre Lukas Sieber gave to Finnish defenseman Ville Pokka:

Luckily for the IIHF, they have fans that can do their work for them. Would it have been so hard to put together a package that contained all of this?