| |Taylor Hall at the 2010 tournament in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images).
With the 2011 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship nearing its conclusion in Buffalo, New York, some current Edmonton Oilers have had the opportunity to reflect on their experiences at the annual post-holiday tournament.
Oilers rookie sensation Taylor Hall
currently leads the Edmonton Oilers in goals with 12 through 37 games this season. On pace to score over 25 goals in his freshman season is an incredible pace, considering that only one year ago Hall was helping lead the Canadian National Team to a silver medal placing at the 2010 World Junior Championship.
At the time, Hall was still a wide-eyed 18-year old that excelled in his capacity at the junior level. Then still part of the Windsor Spitfires organization with the promise of a top selection at the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, the amazement of what has developed in a calendar year is something that even Hall found difficult to describe as he recounts his experience at the international tournament.
"I was such a fan growing up," recalled Hall. "As a little kid, I think the greatest thing about Christmas was watching the World Juniors and then going out to play on the backyard rinks. The World Juniors was synonymous with Canadians and Christmas. It’s still hard to believe that it has already been a year."
While the disbelief was certainly a strong aspect of Hall’s recollection, the experience definitely provided a lasting memory and an unforgettable opportunity for the dynamic scorer; an opportunity that needed to be captured, considering the first time around didn’t go as planned.
"I got cut my first time around, so when I got the opportunity to play in Saskatoon, it was pretty special. To play in a tournament in Canada and have my whole family there, it was a great experience."
As Hall explains, that experience was aided by the lasting friendships that have developed since his time with Team Canada.
"There are quite a few guys that I still keep in touch with. Braden Schema and Ryan Ellis in particular, and hopefully I'll be playing against them in the NHL someday soon. There’s no doubt that having such amazing teammates has helped make this tournament what it is."
Somewhat surprisingly, Hall’s favourite moment of the competition resulted from the heroics of a future teammate. It was a goal scored Jordan Eberle
-- the man appointed "Mr. Clutch" by Hall – who tied the game for Canada in the gold medal final vs. the United States, sending the game into overtime.
"When Ebs scored that last goal to tie it against the US, I've never seen a crazier hockey building. It was a moment I'll never forget -- definitely my top memory for sure."
It was a situation that rekindled the specialty of another Eberle moment. Scotiabank Place in Ottawa was the site for one of the most unlikely and incredible goals ever scored in Canadian history. On its own, the play was standard; but the timing and execution, under those extreme circumstances provided a lift shared by Canadians everywhere.
With only 5.4 seconds to play, Jordan Eberle
tied the game 5-5 against Russia, keeping Team Canada’s gold medal hopes alive. Hall, like countless other Canadians, was glued to the television for this most astonishing moment.
"I actually had a game in Owen Sound against a junior team there, and we were all watching the game after ours in the hallway of the arena. There were probably about a 100 people crammed in that little hallway, all watching a small TV. It was an unreal moment. Scoring that goal was pretty crazy. I don’t think any Canadian will ever forget it."
The pride in the maple leaf was certainly strong with Hall, even before he was given his chance. But with that opportunity arising in 2010, Hall came away with a wealth of knowledge and experience added to his already extensive on-ice arsenal.
"There's a lot of things that I took from it," Hall said.
"I was fortunate to be a part of the winning organization in Windsor, but being able to put on the Canadian sweater brings the winning mentality to a new level. We had a lot of good players and an excellent coaching staff there. One day I hope that we can have that winning -- not just philosophy, but the entire culture here. Being a part of that teaches a new brand of competition, and I hope can help bring to that Edmonton. "
Although the dramatic overtime loss to the United States earned the Canadians a silver medal finish, Hall believes that the loss only helped to strengthen the winning attitude that he acquired through his years in junior.
"It was obviously disappointing. It’s never fun to lost, and even more so when it happens in that situation. But I think that kind of experiences make you hungrier to get back to that championship level. That’s where I want to be."
"I really learned how to win and how to be a winner." Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com