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ESPN Writer Can Find WJC History Lesson At Home

Buffalo is getting some undue criticism for the low turnout of USA fans at the World Juniors tournament and particularly at the semifinal snoozer Monday night at HSBC Arena, which Canada won easily 4-1 in front of an overwhelmingly Canadian crowd.

It was the main topic on sports talk radio here yesterday, with even some local fans labeling the city as a Sabres town as opposed to a hockey town.

And in a humorous and ironic display of naivety, ESPN.com writer and hockey antagonist “The Sports Guy” Bill Simmons not only hopped aboard the Buffalo Bashwagon, but also for good measure even decided to throw Detroit and a portion of the Western frontier under the bus.

From his twitter account:

This junior hockey game is further proof that we just need to sell Buffalo to Canada. Get it over with already.

What about a blockbuster in which we get Vancouver and Canada gets Buffalo + other goodies? I’m hitting the Trade Machine.

OK, here’s my final offer: Buffalo, Detroit, 50% of Montana, three No. 1 picks + $3 million for Vancouver + Steve Nash.

Simmons is certainly an entertaining writer and usually a great read, as over 1 million twitter followers can attest.  In this instance, however, his alleged comedic genius has apparently eclipsed his knowledge of hockey history.  Based on his own criteria, missing from his list of places to kick out of the country is another city with which he personally is quite familiar.

That would be none other than his very own hometown of Boston, where Simmons early in his sports journalism career was actually known as “The Boston Sports Guy”. 

The attendance numbers were so horrible when Beantown hosted the games in 1996 that IIHF organizers were scared of ever having the games in a USA host city again.  This from Andrew Podneiks of the New York Times ‘Slap Shot’ Hockey Blog:

‘The 1996 World U20’s, hosted by Boston and environs, was a complete disaster for USA Hockey. Not particularly close to the Canadian border and played in a city mad about the Bruins, Red Sox and Celtics, the event was a dismal failure. USA Hockey learned from that experience that to host the U20 would require hosting near the Canadian border to achieve respect and success — and full arenas.’

Nine years later the tournament was finally back in America, and it was the Canadian contingent of fans that made the games at venues in Grand Forks, North Dakota and Thief River Falls, Minnesota a relative success.  Attendance averaged over 6000 per game.

When the tournament was subsequently held at faraway places such as Leksand/Mora, Sweden, and Pardubice/Liberec, Czech Republic, out of reasonable traveling reach of the red-and-white faithful, the host cities couldn’t get 3000 fans into the buildings.

Buffalo looks forward to the Canada-Russia gold medal game tonight with a per-game average well over 10,000 already guaranteed.  And yes, much like the event in North Dakota/Minnesota six years earlier, the presence of hockey diehards from the Great White North is the driving force.

The moral of the story is that, no matter how much you hype it and regardless of where you play the games, the hockey world outside of Canada really doesn’t care very much about this tournament.

Simmons was a Bruins fan until the gradual dissolving of old school hockey put the game out of favor with him.  But since he is “The Sports Guy”, and hockey is a major professional sport despite being treated by ESPN as the ugly gap-toothed stepchild, perhaps sending him on a trip up north to take in some junior and bantam games would be a good refresher course.

Better yet, let’s make it a permanent vacation for him.  I’d like to counter-propose that we trade Simmons, Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN, the ESPY awards, and half of the network’s 37 NFL analysts to Canada in return for Ron MacLean, Bob McKenzie, TSN and a poutine recipe to be named later.

Oh, but we’re keeping Boston, and for that matter Detroit.  Based on what little regard they have for the great Canadian game over at the most popular sports network in America, we need to hold on to every diehard hockey city that we can.

Twitter: @DaveDavisHockey

Filed in: Non-NHL Hockey, International Hockey, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: 1996+world+juniors, 2011+world+juniors, andrew+podneiks, bill+simmons, buffalo, new+york+times, team+canada, the+sports+guy


Mandingo's avatar

Simmons is certainly an entertaining writer and usually a great read

You sure you’re talking about Bill Simmons?

Or is there another ESPN writer named Simmons who’s funny?

Posted by Mandingo from The Garage on 01/05/11 at 12:38 PM ET

Da lil Guy's avatar

I guess whether or not you consider the semi-final game a snoozer is a matter of perspective. I thought the hockey was good, even if the score wasn’t close.

Also, on behalf of Canada, I reject your trade offer.

Posted by Da lil Guy from Guelph, Ontario on 01/05/11 at 02:57 PM ET


@Da lil Guy: On the plus side, Canada will probably win a Stanley Cup sooner by picking up Detroit.

Posted by dzuunmod on 01/05/11 at 03:33 PM ET


@Da lil Guy - I’m assuming the poutine was the deal breaker ?

Posted by mc keeper on 01/05/11 at 04:37 PM ET


The only people interested in this tournament are Canadians.  Just have it there every year.

Posted by 13 user names on 01/05/11 at 05:53 PM ET


@13 user names: But then you get into issues of competitive balance. It’s one thing if Canada wants to host an invitational tournament it organizes, but the *World Championships* really do have to move around some of the time so that European teams can play at home some years, in their own time zones, and on their own big ice.

Posted by dzuunmod on 01/05/11 at 05:55 PM ET


Well they don’t draw very well in Europe either.  Maybe they can give the Canadians free plane tickets.

Posted by 13 user names on 01/05/11 at 05:59 PM ET

Da lil Guy's avatar

@dzuumod - don’t tell the fans in Vancouver that.

@Mc Keeper - We’ll listen to offers, but some things will never be on the table. Except maybe for lunch.

Posted by Da lil Guy from Guelph, Ontario on 01/05/11 at 06:29 PM ET


@Da lil guy: You might be right. If Vancouver was “traded” to the US, they would probably win a Stanley Cup immediately.

Posted by dzuunmod on 01/05/11 at 06:31 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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