Sens centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau found a silver lining following the team's 2017-18 season by earning his first invite to represent his country on the ice at the IIHF World Championship in Denmark.
"We obviously didn't get the result that we wanted," Pageau said about the Sens' finishing with the second worst record in the NHL last season. "So to get that call from Team Canada was a real boost of confidence and it made it easier to turn the page on last year. I was able to focus on a new challenge so it was a big deal for me."
While the other Senators in attendance at the tournament (CAN - Thomas Chabot, USA - Colin White, SWE - Filip Gustavsson, SWE - Magnus Paajarvi and SVK - Christian Jaros) have all played for their countries in the past, Pageau was finally given the chance to join Team Canada at the age of 25 and the invitation came from one of the game's all-time greats.
"Martin Brodeur was actually the one who called me and I said yes right away," said Pageau. "He's someone I have a lot of respect for and I got to know him a little bit on the trip."
He admitted that the call from Brodeur was a little surreal and he didn't fully realize the magnitude of what it meant to play for your country until he arrived in Denmark and hit the ice with some of Canada's best. Pageau was born, raised and has played professionally in the nation's capital which is something he's always been proud to do but even he noted that it's another level when you have the chance to play for your country.
"Putting that Team Canada jersey on was special for me because it meant that I finally had the chance to represent my country," Pageau shared. "I take a lot of pride in being able to represent the Ottawa Senators since I'm from the city but to play on behalf of your country is even bigger. All of Canada is watching and the fan support in Denmark was amazing."
Pageau also noted how special it was for his first Team Canada experience to be alongside his Senators teammate Thomas Chabot and it seems that the feeling was mutual.
"He told me before the tournament that he's never played for Team Canada so it's really cool to be with him to share this experience with a good teammate and makes the trip even better," Chabot said. "Everyone back in Ottawa knows how great of a guy that he is so it's been a blast and we're having a lot of fun."
Although Canada would end the tournament off of the podium after a loss to Team USA in the Bronze medal game, Pageau had nothing but good things to say about his first international experience. He finished the 2018 World Championship with 5 points (1G, 4A) in 10 games for Team Canada and he was able to continue his growth as a player by tackling a new challenge.
"To be a part of that team was huge for me and my learning process," he said. "It gave me a chance to play with other guys in the league that I'm usually defending against so it was pretty exciting and a lot of fun."
One of those players ended up being Marc-Édouard Vlasic who was added after the San Jose Sharks were eliminated from the NHL playoffs. Vlasic is a Team Canada veteran who has skated in the Olympics, World Cup and several previous World Championships with the national team in the past and…oh yeah…wears the same number as Pageau.
"I had heard that he wanted #44 and for me it was a no brainer to give it up to him," recalled Pageau. "He's won an Olympic gold medal and he's one of the best defencemen in the league so I obviously have a lot of respect for him. It wasn't really a big deal for me."
After gracefully surrendering his number, Pageau returned to using #11 which was his old QMJHL number and something that's been unavailable to him in Ottawa since being drafted by the Sens in 2011.
"#11 in Ottawa has been taken," joked Pageau. "That was always a bit of a lucky number for me but when I got to Ottawa I didn't think I could ask Alfie for it."
As he gets ready to sport #44 again for the Senators next year, Pageau remarked that the tournament acted as a bit of a bridge for him between a disappointing finish last season and what he hopes to be a productive offseason as he and his teammates look to rebound in 2018-19.
"It's going to be a lot of training this summer," said Pageau. "We're not satisfied with the result from last year so we want to get back at it right away and try to be better."