Another remarkable world junior

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 1:41 PM ET

We're back from a great winter holiday, which we are proud to say never involved leaving Manitoba.

If this is what global warming is all about, we're all for it.

Seriously, if this mild weather keeps up, we're going to need bathing suits by the time we hit the annual bonspiel thaw.

JOYOUS JUNIORS: It is a remarkable testament to hockey in this country when you consider that this year's Canadian junior team was about half as good on paper as last year's squad and it still dominated.

The 2005 event in Grand Forks, N.D., was really an NHL Lite tournament, featuring Canadians like Sidney Crosby, Dion Phaneuf, Patrice Bergeron, Michael Richards, Jeff Carter, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, all of whom have seen time in the big league this year and some of whom have become instant stars.

They made up one of the greatest teams ever iced at the world junior and accomplished feats few thought we'd see again for many years.

Or, maybe one year.

The 2006 Canadian junior team blew away the competition, just like its predecessor, only this time star power was replaced by spectacular goaltending (Justin Pogge), a great team concept and masterful coaching by Brent Sutter.

Seriously, in Sutter's two years at the helm, Team Canada has gone 6-0, 6-0. They've looked better than Anna Kournikova in a swimsuit, and come to think of it their record looks like one of her tennis losses.

This year Sutter got it done with guys such as Steve Downie -- who got so deeply under everybody's skin it looked like he was channelling a volatile combination of Esa Tikkanen and Darcy Tucker -- and a bunch of other no-names like Marc Staal, Steve Parent and Michael Blunden.

Oh sure, Winnipeggers Cam Barker, Dustin Boyd and Jonathan Toews were excellent, like everybody else. They were part of a team everybody will remember because it won easily when it wasn't supposed to win at all. Still, we suspect individuals on this team will be nowhere near as easy to recall.

We'll always cherish the greatest performance by a Canadian junior team in 2005, but in 2006, what will stand out forever is the greatest team performance.

RUSSIAN OFF AT THE MOUTH: You have to wonder if something was lost in translation when members of the Russians said they would win "easily" and would "dominate" against Canada in the final. Those are words no hockey player should ever use, unless his favourite food is crow ... Do you get the feeling Downie won't be quite so popular in the future as he is right now? Guys who punch other players in the unmentionables (twice) when the referee isn't looking aren't usually fan or player favourites ... We have to admit Canada Light (Vancouver) got nicely into the world junior spirit, although there are probably thousands of Winnipeggers who would suggest the atmosphere for the tournament in Grand Forks was better.

GO GET HIM GLIEBERGUYS: How about that Maurice Clarett? After everything the former Ohio State running back has been through, now he's been arrested for armed robbery. If he gets off (or even if he doesn't), you have to believe this guy has a future in the CFL. He's got Gliebermans written all over him ... Great news! CBC Country Canada will relive the 2005 curling Season of Champions, with specials on the Scott Tournament of Hearts and Tim Hortons Brier on Feb. 4 and 5. Of course, if this is made up of clips from the original Country Canada broadcasts, we expect to see about an hour of blank screen ... A beef with Sportsnet's plays of the year for 2005. They had about 50 basketball shots, dozens of NHL shootout goals and even a bowling shot. But somehow, Jennifer Jones' in-off to win the Canadian women's curling championship didn't rate. We would have put it top five.

QUICK HITS: Let's start off with Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "A big, hairy guy comes to New York and takes the city by storm. Am I talking about the remake of King Kong, or Johnny Damon?" ... The Tonight Show's Jay Leno, on Damon leaving the Red Sox to sign with the Yankees: "They're calling this the biggest decision to switch teams since Anne Heche." ... Sidney Crosby has already become a major star in the NHL and a millionaire at the age of 18, but that didn't change anything at home at Christmas time: "My grandmother still gives me 20 bucks," Crosby told the Toronto Star. "No matter how much money you make, some things never change. I still get gift cards for Subway." ... On the other end of the decadence scale was England's royal soccer couple, Victoria and David Beckham. Posh purchased her hubby a $345,000 US Rolls-Royce Phantom for Christmas and Dave reciprocated with a $1.7 million US ruby and diamond necklace ... Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden on his team's turnaround from 5-11 last year to 11-5 this season being described as "drastic": "I don't know how drastic it is. That's up to people who measure 'drastic-ticity,' or whatever the word is. 'Drastic-ticians.'" ... Toronto comedian Frenchie McFarlane on ex-goon and Winnipegger Stu Grimson's new career as a lawyer: "Before, when he punched you in the mouth, you counted your teeth. Now, when he shakes your hand, you count your fingers." ... American comedy writer Jerry Perisho on the Orange Bowl, featuring 70-something coaches Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden, which took three overtimes: "Oh, so those weren't TV timeouts. Those were naps." ... Minnesota Wild chairman Bob Naegele telling the St. Paul Pioneer Press about being ranked 74th on the Hockey News list of 100 most influential people: "My wife gives me annual rankings, and I'm not always that high." ... L.A. Times blogger J.A. Adande on Rose Bowl hype: "ESPN couldn't cover USC any more extensively if the letters stood for 'University of SportsCenter.'" ... Here's what a reader of syndicated columnist Norman Chad had to say about Houston Texans fans booing their 2-14 team during home games: "Isn't that like going to a funeral and booing the casket?" ... Elite blind golfer Zohar Sharon of Israel, describing himself to the Associated Press: "The world's greatest golf player at night." ... Finally, 77-year-old Rose Bowl broadcaster Keith Jackson on being called a legend: "One thing about being called a legend is that you must realize that you are not far from becoming an ancestor."


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