BROSSARD, Quebec -- With Montreal and Toronto hosting the 2015 World Junior Championship, the chance to play in Bell Centre and Air Canada Centre is a fascinating prospect for Canada's latest crop of junior players.
For an older generation of Canadians, Bell Centre and the ACC might not have the nostalgic attachment of the old Montreal Forum or Maple Leaf Gardens. But for these kids, they are the buildings where their NHL dreams have been fostered, either firsthand or on the family flat screen.
It's especially alluring for a Toronto kid like Max Domi, who grew up around the ACC and the Toronto Maple Leafs, for whom his dad, Tie, was an immensely popular player.
Domi, the talented wing for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League whose omission from Canada's roster at last year's WJC was a controversial topic among Canadians, is back for another shot.
Has he ever played a game at the ACC?
"Do you count Timbits as an actual game?" the 19-year-old said, referring to the between-periods games featuring kids no higher than the boards and sponsored by Tim Hortons, Canada's ubiquitous donut/coffee shops.
"I played a little bit once or twice in the second intermission, I think. I've definitely played on that rink, but I don't think I've ever scored there," Domi said. "You throw 20 guys out there and shoot on both ends."
Maybe Domi will get a chance at scoring there come the end of the year.
A first-round pick (No. 12) of the then Phoenix Coyotes in 2013, Domi was on his way to a 34-goal, 93-point season with the Knights last season when he was passed over by Canada, which finished out of the medals at the WJC for the second year in a row.
When a team fails to deliver -- and anything less than a gold medal at the WJC is classified as "failed to deliver" in Canada -- the decision to leave off the team talented players like Domi is always going to lead to a lot of second-guessing.
|Photo by Norm Hall. |
Domi adopted a philosophical approach to dealing with being rebuffed.
"That's life, right?" he said. "At the end of the day I was pretty pumped to see a couple of my teammates in (Josh) Anderson and (Bo) Horvat go and see those guys. It's always exciting. Whether you're there or not, you watch the World Juniors. It's the best time of year. It's too bad they came up a little short, but it was a lot of fun to watch. It should be a good experience here and I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to play.
"You have to be able to deal with a little adversity here and there. It's not going to be all roses. You deal with some failure a little bit. You've got to kind of look at yourself and readjust and come back and make adjustments that you feel are necessary. I've done that. I'm trying to work as hard as I can this summer to hopefully help this team win (the gold)."
And maybe get that chance to play at the ACC.
"Everyone is thinking about that. Montreal and Toronto are two pretty big cities. The nucleus of hockey, really," Domi said. "Everything goes through here and Toronto. Especially being from Toronto, it's going to be pretty special to hopefully one day have the opportunity to play in this circumstance. It'll be a lot of hard work and it's a long way from now, but it's what everybody is thinking about."
"It should be pretty exciting for hockey and Canada in general."