December 30, 2011
Mrazek: Memories Of Pauli Jaks
The World Junior Hockey Championships have quickly become one of the favourite non-NHL hockey tournaments on the hockey schedule. In fact some fans will tell you that it is the most exciting hockey you'll see all season long prior to the start of the Stanley Cup finals.
We watch these kids playing their hearts out and we become instant fans of theirs. They don't get paid, they are there for their country and because they are chasing a dream - a dream that many of us have dreamt for as well, but came nowhere close to fulfilling.
As we watch the excitement on television, often staying up (or getting up!) at the wee hours of the morning if the tournament is held in Europe, we develop instant favourites, and we follow them throughout the rest of their career. Many never become much of a professional player once they reach that stage, but some do.
We don't just become fans of our home countries' players either. Often we are drawn to a great player on another team. Though he is the enemy for this short tournament, we become fans of his too.
At the 2012 World Juniors in Alberta that player turns out to be Czech goaltender Petr Mrazek. His 50 save performance upsetting the might United States is one thing. Heck, he even attempted to score a goal! But it his enthusiastic celebrations mid-game that are entertaining, refreshing and stealing the show. How excited must this kid be to be getting a standing ovation from 17,000 Canadian fans.
Of course, being an oldtimer like myself, I tweeted how Mrazek's spectacular play reminded me of another great World Juniors goaltender named Pauli Jaks. It fell flat, as no one knows who that is any more. Which goes to serve as a reminder: You can earn temporary legendary status at the World Juniors, but it is no guarantee of NHL success.
For a trip down memory lane, here's a look back at Pauli Jaks and the 1991 World Junior Hockey Championships.