Night before Christmas

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through Grand Forks

Not a puck fan is breathing, who isn't out of sorts.

For there on the morrow, the big tourney will start

And loved ones all over will soon be apart.

The world juniors, you see, are all that now matters

Gift giving and taking can wait until later.

For Canada's honour is again on the line

Seven years without winning -- far too long a time.

The Finns and the Swedes, Belarus, too

will put up a fuss -- what else would they do?

We know those red Russians will be at their best

And the Slovaks, Day 1, will provide a real test.

But let's face it, there's one team that's tops in the bidding

There's no need to pretend, no need for kidding.

They took gold from us last year, put our hopes on the shelf

And would like nothing better than to repeat at The Ralph.

The defending champs are in Red, White and Blue

The home team this time, going for two.

Eight players returning, one minding the net

All feeling pressure, I'm willing to bet.

But don't tell me they're favoured, not over our nation

Not when we've got Crosby, that teenaged sensation.

And Richards, the captain, from nearby Kenora

A dozen returnees -- that's quite a plethora.

There's Barker and Dawes, and Beauchemin, too

A Manitoba contingent that's one more than two.

Will it be enough to bring home the gold

And recapture the glory of those days of old?

For this land, it starves for some kind of winner

In this year of the lockout, the long, cold dark winter.

In case you've not noticed, '04 was not kind

To those in this province with a sporting fan's mind.

It began with the Moose, who missed their post-season

And continued in Athens, for whatever reason.

Three 'Tobans did travel to Greece for the Olys

But came home empty-handed, like so many others.

There was Bosshart, from Landmark, her game taekwondo

Leier was the swimmer -- her second Games, you know.

Powell, the rower, was our surest thing

But the U.S., of all nations, were the new men's eight kings.

Thank goodness for Kirby, the swimmer refusing

To let a lack of eyesight lead to her losing.

From Athens she came, medals in hand

Five gold and two silver, strike up the band!

The letdown returned with the boys of summer

Missing the playoffs, that was a bummer.

Now that was a first in 10 years of the Goldeyes

And made some fans wonder if Hal was still wise.

But you want a disaster, how about the Blue Bombers?

Reinventing the term "under-performers."

Seven games in, they fired Dave Ritchie

Then handed the job to a fellow named Daley.

Try as he might, he could not turn around

A ship that seemed destined to be run aground.

Late in the season, they traded their leader

As Khari was shipped to the sad-sack Stampeders.

His shoulder had left him a shell of his former

But there was confusion about what was the matter.

What may have caused the final divorce

An ill-advised trip to a local golf course.

The team that remained, it showed some potential

But sank to a once unthinkable level.

Out of the playoffs, stuck in fourth place

The organization had egg on its face.

For the first time in memory, we'd hit the trifecta

Our teams were all losers -- how does that grab ya?

But, alas, there was hope for another reason

Rising on Portage: the new Rink at Eaton's.

We'd said our goodbyes to the old Arena

With help from old friends, like the goalie, Essensa.

Hedberg came too, and Nilsson and Olczyk

And Teemu rekindled a bit of the magic.

So the Old Girl was done, and we shut her down

Packed up and moved our hockey downtown.

It's a new era, there's no denying

And lo and behold, the Moose are now winning.

Perhaps that is why the Bombers are talking

About getting a new home in their Christmas stocking.

It's still much too early to get all excited

For how long was the Arena debate ignited?

So here's to a Christmas filled with expectation

For better times in this part of the nation.

A championship, even, not later, but sooner

What better place to start, than at the world junior?


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