In the first part of a special feature to the Nation Network, we are proud to introduce a guest columnist – WJC Team Canada alumni Brian Sutherby. As a member of the 2002 Silver Medal winning Canadian team, he knows a thing or two about a thing or two. And throughout the 2012 WJC he will be sharing his thoughts on the tournament and memories from his run to the Finals. – WG
Ten years ago this winter a dream came true for me when I was named to the Canadian World Junior team. I consider this to be right up there as one of the greatest accomplishments in my life along side being a 2-time Angler Cup Champion. But that is a story for another day.
When I was a kid, scoring that Stanley Cup winner in road hockey was also accompanied by imagining putting on the Canadian jersey and playing at Christmas time in front of the entire country. For those who make the team it’s a dream that has been 18 or 19 years in the making. But on cut day however, in one early phone call, it can be ripped away in an instant.
Silence is all a player wants on this morning. This is the day you never want to hear a phone ring.
In 2001 as an 18 year old I was considered a long shot to make the World Junior team. I wasn’t even brought to summer camp until someone got injured, but that was my opening. I had a great showing and that seemed to put me on Stan Butler’s radar.
I managed to follow that up with a strong start to the season. As December came I received my camp invite, and I full heartedly believed I could make the team. Unfortunately 4 days before heading off to Toronto for camp, I was admitted to hospital and told I needed an emergency appendectomy.
Sitting there helpless, I asked the Doctor several times if I could recover in 4 or 5 days, or if there was any way to put off the surgery. Obviously he said no. It was devastating. It didn’t come from the coach, but that was my cut day.
That was my dreaded phone call.
SKIP AHEAD 12 MONTHS
Knowing I still had next year was the only thing that helped me cope. By 2002 I was 19 years old, not making that team wasn’t even an option in my mind. I got off to a good start at camp and didn’t look back. By the 4th tryout game, versus the university all-stars, I was made a healthy scratch.
Normally this would be a terrible thing, except I sat out with all the veterans. I was the only player who had the night off that hadn’t been with the team the Christmas before. Given the company I was in, and having not been cut earlier that morning. It was a small indication that I was safe and had made the team.
Hear me however when I say a ‘small indication’. Nothing was ever said to me and in this game; things can change in a heartbeat.
A LONG NIGHT
I still didn’t sleep well that night. I took nothing for granted. As we had the 2 previous nights, my roommate and I tossed and turned. Fearing a call that would crush our dreams, all we wanted was our clock to read 6:01 AM which was the deadline for geting "the call."
If you hadn’t received a call before then, it meant you had made the team and there was a Team Canada meeting at 6:30 AM. The negative thoughts you try to block out, and the eagerness for the morning to come has you up every 30-40 minutes staring at the clock. It was gut wrenching agony and excitement like no other.
There are moments in your life that literally feel like they were yesterday and this is one of them for me. It was just after 5:30 AM. We laid there in pitch black not talking to one another. The glowing red numbers on the clock moving way to slow, and then the phone rang…
"Noooo!!!" yelled my roommate.
"Oh please don’t be for me" I said in my head while clenching my pillow.
We let it ring a couple times almost in disbelief. I would have let it ring forever. The phone was on his side and he slowly picked it up. My mind was racing as he answered the phone, "please don’t pass the phone to me" I thought.
As an aside it is quite sad that you are sitting there wishing the ultimate evil upon this guy you just spent four days beside and have become good friends with. But in these moments you have no other option – one or both of us was going home.
After a brief conversation he hung up. "It’s me" he said, "I’m done".
So many emotions come over you in that moment. Comforting your friend who you feel terrible for and knowing the pain he is in, while fighting the urge not to jump through the roof in excitement. He packed up his things and quickly left.
I sat there for the next 10 minutes no longer thinking about myself, but my teammate on the Moose Jaw Warriors who was also trying out with me.
We both knew he was on the bubble. I was too scared to call him. As the clock hit 6 there was a knock at my door, he stood there with a huge smile. He had made it to. I wasn’t sure if I was happier for him or me in that moment.
Then we started jumping around on the beds like we were 5 years old.
Words can’t describe the pride and joy that comes over you, knowing you have survived the final cut and made Team Canada. The thought of winning that gold medal and having all of Canada, and all your family and friends behind you is an incredible feeling.
For this year’s team, the journey has just begun. It will provide memories that last a lifetime. All their hard work has paid off and for 22 men they’ve just passed the first test of many to come.
They don’t have to worry about any more phone calls.