|John Tavares is already lighting up the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship with his goal-scoring prowess for Team Canada. But years earlier, he shone on the same Scotiabank Place ice at the Bell Capital Cup (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images).
John Tavares has bigger hockey dreams to chase now in Ottawa.
But mention the words Bell Capital Cup and a wide and easy grin quickly spreads across the face of the young man who has become the face of Team Canada at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship being played this week in the nation's capital.
"It was a great tournament. It was one of my family's favourite tournaments," said the 18-year-old from Oakville, Ont., in recalling his time at the 2001 Bell Capital Cup (then known as the Bell Canada Cup), which has since grown into the world's largest hockey tourney.
Tavares has racked up five goals and nine points to lead Canada to a perfect 3-0-0 start at the 2009 WJC. He still fondly recalls another big moment at Scotiabank Place eight years ago, when he suited up for a Mississauga Senators team that won the minor atom AAA championship at the Bell Capital Cup.
"I remember scoring the winning goal here at SBP against the Vaughn Kings in minor atom," Tavares said after Team Canada wrapped up its practice earlier today on the same ice surface. "It was a great memory for me and I had a great tournament. It was a lot of fun and it was something I’ll always remember."
A new generation of Bell Capital Cup youngsters now looks toward Tavares and Team Canada and can't help dreaming big. Many of the teams attended a Team Canada open practice on Saturday and a number of them have attended WJC games at Scotiabank Place or the Ottawa Civic Centre.
In Tavares's mind, the motivation for the tournament's youngsters couldn't be more obvious.
"I remember scoring the winning goal here at SBP against the Vaughn Kings in minor atom. It was a great memory for me and I had a great tournament. It was a lot of fun and it was something I'll always remember." - John Tavares
"Every kid dreams of being on this team and being a part of this," said Tavares, a top contender to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal. "I think it’s great. We’ve seen a few of them and they’re all excited and wide-eyed when they see us and look up to us a lot. So I think it’s important (for them to have the WJC in the same city)."
Bell Capital Cup general manager Aaron Robinson said the opportunity for Bell Capital Cup participants to see a player like Tavares, who is a graduate of the very same tournament, provides a major inspiration for them all.
“It just shows that anything is possible,” said Robinson. “Kids playing in the tournament can hope and dream to do what (Tavares) has done. It’s also great to tie the two tournaments together and show the quality of the Bell Capital Cup.”
With the world juniors occupying Scotiabank Place until Monday, all the championship games at this year's Bell Capital Cup will be contested down the road at the Bell Sensplex. Finals begin later today, with more championship trophies being awarded through the day Wednesday and New Year's Day.
Team Canada, meanwhile, aims to wrap up a perfect run through the round-robin portion of the WJC when it faces off against the United States in a matchup of 3-0-0 teams on New Year's Eve at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., TSN). The winner of the highly anticipated matchup advances directly to the semifinals on Saturday.For more information on the Bell Capital Cup, including updated schedules, statistics and results, visit www.bellcapitalcup.ca.