|Team Canada head coach Pat Quinn addresses the troops at CFB Petawawa, who helped in the preparation for the Canadians' gold triumph at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship.
Eugene Melnyk and Team Canada delivered on a promise Monday morning.
Six months after striking gold at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Ottawa, the trophy the Canadians hoisted on a January night at Scotiabank Place made a triumphant visit to the place where their victorious journey began. There was no forgetting the team building pre-tournament camp that Hockey Canada held at CFB Petawawa less than two weeks before the drop of the puck.
Some 2,000 Canadian Forces troops at the base and Gen. Walter Natynczyk, Canada's chief of the defence staff, welcomed the occasion as warmly as they opened their barracks to a group of teenage hockey players last December.
"It's a great thrill and I know it's a great thrill for the soldiers that we can give something back," said Melnyk, the owner of the Ottawa Senators and chairman of the host organizing committee for the 2009 WJC. "They're out there in the fields fighting and to support the troops, this is the very least that we can do.
"When (Team Canada head coach) Pat Quinn said we're going to come back (here) if we win the gold medal, I even remember whispering to him 'you know Pat, we are coming back here.' And he said 'you've got a lot of confidence.' " (audio)
Said Quinn: "You never know if you're going to win but in my mind, if we won, we were coming back."
The trip was assured on Jan. 5, when Canada dumped Sweden 5-1 in front of 20,380 at Scotiabank Place – a WJC-record crowd taking in a record-tying fifth straight world junior gold for Canada. On Monday, Melnyk, Quinn and a contingent that also included Team Canada captain Thomas Hickey, assistant captain Cody Hodgson, Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson, WJC host organizing committee vice-chair Cyril Leeder and Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada's director of national teams, brought the hardware back to the troops.
Their efforts in helping Team Canada prepare for its championship run at the WJC were surely worthy of a gold medal.
"I think it was huge," Melnyk said of the decision to hold a pre-tourney camp at CFB Petawawa, where players took part in military-led team-building exercises. "I couldn't think of a better place to get these guys bonded. They did a great job here. They had them all lined up in some exciting things.
"And (the players) came back raring to go. They were ready to play and mentally, they were just on a high when they left Petawawa."
"I couldn't think of a better place to get these guys bonded. They did a great job here. They had them all lined up in some exciting things. And (the players) came back raring to go. They were ready to play and mentally, they were just on a high when they left Petawawa." - Eugene Melnyk
Now Melnyk will shift his attention back to the team he owns. The Senators have the 2009 NHL Draft in their rear view mirror now, with Wednesday's free agency deadline the next big date on the off-season calendar. Melnyk said general manager Bryan Murray has "free rein as far as what he wants to do" in free agency, and that includes spending up to the $56.8-million salary cap (audio)
"(Murray) is accountable for the success of the team and he takes that responsibility (for it) and takes it very seriously," said Melnyk. "I think he's going to do what he needs to do to fill in a couple of gaps that we have and we'll see what happens. It's going to be a fairly exciting week."
Melnyk didn't expect that excitement to include the trade request made three weeks ago by forward Dany Heatley, a development that the Senators owner called "disappointing." (audio)
. He acknowledged life without the team's top goal-scorer won't be easy if Murray is able to complete a trade for him (audio)
. There were no takers at the draft.
"That's a tough question," Melnyk said when asked how much losing Heatley might hurt his team. "Dany's an elite player. You've got a 50-goal scorer that you're not going to have, potentially, and that has to somehow be replaced. But it's a resilient team ... You saw us play toward the end of (last) year and I think we can't wait to get back."