Jarome Iginla was one of many very talented, determined and fortunate young hockey players to have had the opportunity to play for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships in 1995-96. The tournament was held in Massachusetts, USA and was the 20th World Junior tournament held.
Team Canada won their fourth consecutive and ninth overall gold medal by defeating Team Sweden 4-1 in the gold medal game.
Iginla tallied 5 goals and 7 assists in just six games at the tournament.
"It was a great experience," said Iginla. "I definitely felt very blessed to make the team. It's hard to make the team. You're representing Canada and there are a lot of good junior players. You go to the camp and they can make choices ether way based on what they see. To just to be a part of that team is a huge thrill."
Along with the excitement of the tournament comes the pressure of playing for your country and winning an always expected gold medal.
"There's a lot of pressure too," Iginla agreed. "A lot of Canadians watch and there is a tradition and the goal is purely gold, it's always gold and that's the way we grew up in Canadian hockey. So there is that pressure and it's something that you learn to deal with. It's the next step, and when you come through it you learn to deal with it and you draw on it later when you're in some pretty intense games."
Iginla compared the World Junior Championships intensity to NHL playoffs. He says that the pressure and nervousness is on the same level. Every game is so big at the WJC. Just as important as NHL playoff hockey.
"It's all similar once you get to the playoffs, the sudden death and what it means to you to win. Playoffs, as you go on they are all like game 7's, it really is. It's do or die, every game is so big. They are under a lot of scrutany."
The only difference might be age and the stage you are at in the learning process of how everything will come together.
"It's a great step in finding that balance between that pressure, but enjoying it and learning to deal with it and to learning to love it. I think when you play for Canada, they do a great job of developing that from under 17 to under 18 to World Juniors. You learn to enjoy that. You can't really teach that you have to experience it."
What do these young hockey players feel when they put on the Canadian jersey?
"There is definitely a lot of pride," smiled Iginla. "The tradition behind it. There's the pride and a responsibilty. How fortunate you are and how blessed you are. Look at how many other players would love to be there and have that opportunity so you feel that pride and responsibilty and the energy and you just want to get out there and play."
Author: Kristi Hennessy