Every year, the IIHF World Junior Championship takes place pitting the best young talent in hockey from around the world against each other in a tournament-style setting. Two Nashville Predators defensemen had great success in this tournament before their pro careers began. Ryan Ellis and Seth Jones each won gold with their respective teams, Canada and the United States of America. Ellis claimed gold in 2009, with silver in 2010 and 2011, and Jones took home gold for the USA in 2013. Even though the players are in their pro careers, do they still keep up with how their country performs? Absolutely.
“Yes, I do,” said Jones. “A lot of other guys in here do too. You just see how your country is doing and what everyone else is doing; kind of where the medal rounds will shape up. I watched the USA’s first game and hopefully they can bring it home this year. They looked pretty good from what I saw in the first game.”
“Yeah, absolutely,” said Ellis. “Every chance I get, I try to watch the game.”
The blue line for the Predators boasts players from the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden and Russia. It was a bit obvious in the locker room however, which two countries like to trash talk the most among the players. The entire time while Jones was speaking, Predators captain Shea Weber was taunting him. With the USA vs Canada match up coming on New Year’s Eve, the jawing between Americans and Canadians will continue to intensify.
“I listen to this guy here (while pointing at Shea Weber) a lot, just a little bit of talking, but not much,” said Jones while laughing and listening to Weber taunt him in the background. “They’re two great teams. It’s always the kind of game, whether you’re American or Canadian, that you look forward to. It’s going to be a battle for sure.”
Ryan Ellis tried to play off the trash talking with more a straight face when asked about it.
“No, not really,” said Ellis with a smirk when asked if there’s jawing in the locker room about the rivalry. “Jones has seen all the gold medals that we have, so he doesn’t really say too much.”
Between the two players exchanging menacing looks when asked about their respective country’s teams, it was hard to get any sort of prediction out of them. Obviously, they were playing it safe as to not have to deal with repercussions from teammates later.
“I hope the USA wins gold,” said Jones as Weber kept repeating, “Canada!” in the background. “I want to shout out Mark Masters for calling me out on that one (with lots of laughing). The best team is going to win.”
Ellis couldn’t give a full prediction of how he expects the teams to finish, but he did note how important a medal is for Canada this year.
“Honestly, I have no idea,” said Ellis. “I wish Canada all the best. I’d love to see them win and get gold, but we know the American team is a good team, as are some of the European countries. We haven’t medaled in the past couple of years, so this would be a great year to do so.”
USA and Canada face off on December 31, 2014 at 3:00pm CST. You can watch all of the action on the NHL Network.