THE WJC & THE ISLES
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time in the NHL, it’s that “Canadians LOVE the World Junior Championships.”
That lesson somehow eluded me after last night’s game in Raleigh. Upon setting the post-game bus time after the shootout win, I failed to account for the Canada vs. Russia WJC semi-final game that was streaming on the locker-room TV.
Shortly after the coaching staff headed to the bus, their usual 10 minutes early, I stepped into the dressing room to find all 20 players glued to the WJC; maybe five had showered, but most were still in their game laundry. This bus wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
With Canada down 5-1 at the end of the second period, we finally pushed the team onto the bus (cue the angry coaches) and were back at the hotel in time to see Russia pull ahead 6-1 in the third.
The scene at the postgame meal, during Team Canada’s four-goal rally to make it 6-5, was a contrast of rowdy Canadians (led by Travis Hamonic, John Tavares and – loudest of them all – Butch Goring), quieter but confident Europeans (Milan Jurcina grew more giddy with each passing minute), and several Americans, who happily remained neutral by making fun of the opposing factions (Doug Weight: “Does Anyone know who led this tournament in scoring in 1991?”).**
The feuding sides were unexpectedly united in the final seconds of the game, as Isle’s prospect Ryan Strome had an opportunity to tie it for Team Canada. For a split second, every Islander became a Team Canada supporter, praying for the puck to find twine.
Instead, Strome’s shot rang off the post, preventing what would have been an Islanders-led mini riot through the streets of Raleigh and ensuring a timely bus departure for the next morning’s flight to Anaheim.
I wonder how Stromer’s phone handled the onslaught of texts and voicemails he had waiting for him after the game.
**Weight scored 5 goals and 14 assists in seven games for Team USA
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