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Wings recall their WJC participation

by Zack Crawford / Detroit Red Wings
TORONTO – As the Red Wings enjoyed the first stint of the fathers trip’ at the Hockey Hall of Fame, teams from Sweden and Russia faced off in the World Junior Championship gold medal game in Alberta, Canada.

After touring the displays in the Hall, some of the Wings and their fathers settled into a theater in the hall to catch a live broadcast of the game.

With nine Swedes and a Russian on the Wings’ squad, the investment in the junior game varied. But with 12 of the current Wings having competed in past WJC, it was also an opportunity to remember experiences in the tournament. 

“At the time it was the biggest experience of my life playing for Canada,” Ian White said. “It’s a big deal and it was quite an experience to be an eighteen year old kid playing in front of all those fans and a lot of people watching, your whole country watching you.”

Seven of the current Wings have won WJC medals: Brad Stuart and White won silver with Canada, Valtteri Filppula won bronze twice with Finland, and Patrick Eaves and Justin Abdelkader won bronze with USA in ’07, and Darren Helm won gold with Canada.

“It’s only a week and a half long tournament so you’re pretty amped up,” Helm said. “It’s a tournament that you talk about a lot as a kid growing up. It’s the one thing you’re really shooting for — obviously the NHL is your main goal, but if you get there it’s pretty exciting.”

In 2007, in Sweden, Helm scored two goals as Canada battled for gold. With 15 gold medals, Canada has won the tournament more than any other country since the tournament’s inception in 1977.

“There’s high expectations,” White said. “We’re one of the biggest hockey countries in the world, if not the biggest. Starting at a young age there’s a lot of pressure.”

Earlier this week, Canada’s loss to Russia – after coming back from a 5-1 deficit – came as a blow to the country that has taken home medals in each of the last 14 years.

“It’s tough when you’re going into the third period down 5-1 and trying to dig back,” Helm said. “It was great to see that they stuck with it though and tried to make that push at the end.”

Helm’s WJC run in 2007 involved two bouts against Team USA, on which his future teammate, Abdelkader, was playing alongside Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson and Patrick Kane. Canada beat USA in the first matchup, but when the teams met again, the game was tied through overtime and went into a lengthy shootout that ended when Jonathan Toews scored for Canada.

“It was pretty crazy,” Helm said. “One goal went in and their guy didn’t score and it could’ve been the difference between playing for the third medal or the gold medal,”

Canada went on to beat Russia in the finals. And while Helm was celebrating a gold medal, his future teammate was heading home with the bronze.

“It was a tough loss for us in the semifinal,” Abdelkader said. “Unfortunately we didn’t come out on top, but I think it was a game that we remembered.”

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