Canada's junior hockey heroes proud in victory
Published Tuesday, January 6, 2009 7:19PM EST
Some of the GTA-based members of Canada's junior hockey heroes arrived at Pearson International Airport sporting the gold medals they won by defeating Sweden 5-1.
Fans and airport workers alike cheered loudly and rushed to shake hands with the players on Tuesday, who extended Canada's consecutive championship streak to five wins.
"Obviously, it just speaks about our character as a team, our country and our pride -- you know, our 'never say die' attitude," John Tavares, named the tournament MVP, told reporters.
"We believe in ourselves, in facing anything and overcoming anybody. We played our best game in the final, and it showed."
Against the United States on New Year's Eve, the Canadians fell behind 3-0 before rallying for a 7-4 victory.
In the semi-final, Russia matched Canada goal-for-goal before pulling ahead 5-4 with just over two minutes left. Canada's Jordan Eberle, who plays for the Regina Pats, caused bedlam by tying the game with 5.6 seconds left.
Canada would eventually win in a shootout, with Eberle and Tavares scoring.
Team Canada never trailed against the Swedes, going ahead 1-0 in the first period. The final score came with two empty-netters.
"It was just total domination," said forward Cody Hodgson, who plays for the OHL's Brampton Battalion. "We went in looking for our strongest game, we wanted to get better every game, and that's what we accomplished."
Defenceman Alex Pietrangelo of the Niagara IceDogs said the team's record in the past five years speaks well to the talent level in this country and the job being done by Hockey Canada.
"Hopefully we'll make it six in a row," he said, referring to the next tournament to be held in Regina and Saskatoon in about 12 months.
"I think every kid on our team this year has watched (the tournament) every single year, and I watched it last year knowing maybe this year I'll get a chance," Pietrangelo said. "It was better than anything I'd imagined. And having a gold around your neck makes it that much better."
The team's efforts garnered praise from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who attended the gold-medal game with son Ben.
"With each passing year, all countries are developing more first-rate hockey players than ever before, making this tournament increasingly competitive," he said in a statement. "Yet for five years running, Canada's juniors have taken on the world's best and, each time, come home with the gold.
"This is a remarkable accomplishment of which all Canadians can be proud."
Meanwhile, Tavares -- who plays for the Oshawa Generals -- could find out in the next few days if he's been traded. Rumours were flying that the club would move him to the London Knights in exchange for three players.
He is being touted as a possible top overall pick in the NHL draft in June.
In response to questions about his future with the Generals, Tavares said: "I started thinking about it (Monday) night, obviously, and I just want to make sure I make the right decision with everything. The club's been handling it great and everyone's been very respectful and, you know, I just want to make sure I make the right decision."
Chris DiDomenico, another Team Canada forward and sixth-round 2007 Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick, found himself traded Tuesday to the Drummondville Voltigeurs from the Saint John Sea Dogs.
Meanwhile, organizers of the tournament estimate it will have an economic impact of $51 million, with the final figure becoming known in March.
Cyril Leeder of the tournament's organizing community executive said that 453,282 tickets were issued during the tournament -- a 21 per cent increase over the 2006 World Juniors in Vancouver.
"We've also had 20,380 tickets issued for the gold medal game - the fourth single-game attendance record set this year," he added.
The money generated by the tournament will be used to support minor hockey across Canada, including 13 Hockey Canada branches.
The Ottawa District Hockey Association could stand to gain more than $700,000.
With a report from CTV Toronto's John Musselman and files from The Canadian Press