World junior championship: Defending shootouts as an eliminator

The sudden-victory format for the first two elimination rounds of the world junior championship is breathtaking and beastly in its emphasis on brevity.

Put it another way: those who enjoyed seeing Russia lose the world junior championship final last season cannot complain about the hosts staying alive with a shootout win over Switzerland on Wednesday Sure, it is an arbitrary, crappy way to have medal hopes go poof, but it's not like the Swiss did not have their chances. Also, think back to 365 days ago in Calgary: Sweden beat Finland in a semifinal shootout prior to defeating Russia for the gold medal two nights later. Few were bothering to put to put an asterisk on the Swedish triumph while relishing Russia's loss.

Above all, sports is entertainment. Who was not rapt by seeing if Switzerland, nowhere near as deep in pro prospects as Russia, try to hand the hosts their comeuppance was riveting viewing? It is part of the total package of the tournament.

The best rationale for having a 10-minute overtime and shootout came from Puck Worlds' Bruce Peter, who noted the IIHF is holding three games per day on the same ice. Perhaps worrying about ice quality is weak sauce, but one would prefer skill decides the semifinals and medal games.

However that holds up, there probably is no arguing with what can be blithely blanket-generalized as the 'the NHL does not do that' approach. It's understandable to feel that way; people go with what they know, plus there's a deep well of empathy for Switzerland for coming so close to being the spoiler.

To each her/his own. It made for unbelievable TV even for those who did not have a national flag to wave. It is a triumph for the tournament and its main TV partner that office workers in Canada were paying to watch a stream of a game from the non-Canadian half of the playoff bracket.

What about letting star players being able shoot multiple times like Russia saviourNikita Kucherov did Wednesday and Canada's Jonathan Toews famously did in 2007 vs. Team USA? So be it. Call this an extreme anecdotal example, but the 19-round shootout in the  OHL between the London Knights and Mississauga Steelheads one month ago today showed the absurdity of the 'one and done' rule. A national team is going to have more skill than an OHL team, but there is something to be said for letting the most adroit stickhandlers and shooters decide a skills competition, if that's how it must be.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to

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