Saturday morning has brought with it some rather disappointing news for Canadian hockey fans.
One of the most highly anticipated events on the annual hockey calendar is the International Ice Hockey Federation's World Junior Championship tournament, an international tournament which showcases some of the game's future stars as they represent their respective countries. It is often the last chance for fans to see young star players before they ascend to the ranks of the National Hockey League, but this year one of those youngsters will not be attending the tournament.
According to a report from TSN National Hockey League insider Bob McKenzie, team Canada will not have NHL forward Kirby Dach at their disposal this year with Dach having been blocked from competing in the tournament. Dach is currently playing for the Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL and although teams usually allow their players to attend the tournament they do reserve the right to hold on to a player should they feel the need to do so. Dach is playing a regular role on the Blackhawks this season and it appears the organization feels that they can not afford to lose him at this time and therefore have refused to release him to Team Canada for the tournament.
Of course for Dach himself this likely comes as a significant disappointment, young players often relish the few chances in their careers in which they get to represent their home countries, but it also has to be a moment of personal pride for the young man as well. Dach has obviously established himself as an NHL level talent and the Blackhawks are almost certainly not making this decision flippantly. General manager Stan Bowman has to be very aware of what an opportunity to represent Canada at the World Junior Championship would mean to a player like Dach and simply felt that the pros of keeping him in Chicago outweighed the cons of preventing him from attending the tournament.
At the end of the day there is no question that Dach will continue to face superior opposition at the NHL level with the Blackhawks, and it may simply be that the Blackhawks and Bowman felt that the player's development would be best improved by staying in the NHL.