This week, I just wanted to pass along my thoughts on the World Junior Hockey Championships that have now come and gone from here in Calgary and also in Edmonton.
It was a crazy time, because we also cover every Flames road game. As such, I didn’t have the opportunity to check out what was happening at Rexall Place, but I certainly got my fill of the atmosphere at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
I had an opportunity to cover a number of games throughout the round robin and medal round, and while the games were a lot of fun, it was the atmosphere that made things as memorable as they were. Two minutes stick out to me specifically.
The first came in a round robin game between the Swiss and the Swedes, the same game where tournament standout Max Friberg rode the pony by the opposing bench following one of his shootout goals.
However, my memorable moment came before the shootout. Sweden had opened up a 3-1 lead early in the third period and seemed well on their way to their second win of the tournament. But on a 5-on-3 powerplay opportunity, the Swiss got within one on Joel Vermin’s second goal of the game.
Now, knowing how fans love an underdog, the Scotiabank Saddledome crowd was firmly behind the Swiss, and it was an absolute thrill experiencing what came after. With just 2:04 remaining, Dean Kukan tied the game at three, and it sounded like a home team scored a goal. It was really cool seeing the lower bowl jump out of their seats on the equalizer and it was the first instance I experienced of how the crowd made this tournament special.
The final example came in Canada’s loss to Russia in the semifinal. The Scotiabank Saddledome was shocked when the Canadians fell down like they did, trailing 6-1 at one point. The place fell almost dead silent following YevgeniKuznetsov’s second goal of the game which made things 3-1 in the second period.
And then something special happened. As Russia swelled their lead to five, the clearly pro-Canadian crowd did something that most NHL crowds wouldn’t: stick with their team. As the Russians got opportunities on the powerplay, Canadian fans were cheering every clearing attempt and every blocked shot. And then Canada started to score.
The noise level in the Scotiabank Saddledome was incredible as the score moved from 6-1 to 6-3 and 6-4.
However, when Brandon Gormley scored to get Team Canada within a goal, everyone in the ‘Dome was in for a memorable finish.
For the first time in my media career, I found myself audibly screaming in the press box, which is as taboo as it gets, as we’re supposed to all be very stoic up top.
The best part? Nobody heard my outburst when Ryan Strome came an inch away from tying the game. Why? Because the place was so darn loud. It was a constant noise that got louder on scoring opportunities, but never went away.
20 years from now, I may not remember every nuance about Canada’s 6-5 loss. But the final five minutes of that game is something that will be etched into my memory, mostly because of how fun it was to be a part of the atmosphere.
We all wanted to see Team Canada win gold on home ice, and it was disappointing to see them lose that game to Russia. But Calgary and Edmonton set an attendance record for a reason, and it was a privilege to be a part of it.Pat Steinberg can be heard on the Big Show weekdays from 1-4 pm and on Overtime after every Flames game on Sportsnet 960 The Fan radio.
Author: Pat Steinberg