When a dream dies

Paul Friesen -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:03 AM ET

They tried to make it more humane, more decent. Of course, that was the idea when they switched from the electric chair to the injection, too. Don't get me wrong, I'm not comparing cut-down day at Team Canada's world junior camp with capital punishment.

It's just that there's no easy way to tell someone he's not good enough, not when he's dreamed for years of playing in this tournament.

You want kinder and gentler, you've come to the wrong place. This breaks hearts, and that's what we saw here yesterday.

Grab a front-row seat for the most humbling moment in junior hockey.

It began with a team breakfast at the hotel yesterday morning. Everybody was there, laughing and joking -- but knowing full well the person next to them could soon be handed a plane ticket out of town.

In previous years they'd find out with a 6 a.m. wake-up call, and be whisked off to the airport without seeing their teammates.

But head coach Brent Sutter preferred a more professional approach.

So after the bacon and eggs at 8:30, everyone was sent to their rooms to wait for a call they prayed wouldn't come.

"If you didn't get a call, you had to wait till 11 a.m.," defenceman Cam Barker of Winnipeg said. "You're just wondering what's going to happen."

And then the phone rings, and you and your roommate look at each other.

If you happen to be two goalies competing for the same spot, like Winnipegger Reg Beauchemin and Kevin Nastiuk of Edmonton, your mind is going a million miles an hour.

"It was nerve-wracking," Beauchemin said.

And how do you think he felt when the call wasn't for him?

"It's tough to show any emotion," Beauchemin said. "You're happy, but you feel bad for the other guy."

And so you watch the other guy pick up his things and leave.

Minutes later, in another room, another phone rings. And another dream dies.

"When you get the phone call, you know it's coming," said goalie Devan Dubnyk, the 18-year-old from Calgary. "And you go to the coach's room."

If that's not the longest walk in your life, then the one down in the hotel lobby is, where you get off the elevator and a team official points you toward the mass of reporters and TV cameras waiting at the other end.

And the questions begin: "Put into words how you feel? Why do you think you got cut? How do you really feel?"

"Nothing can prepare you for being this disappointed," Dubnyk said.

After the media has poked and prodded the carcass, it waits for the next one to come down.

One by one, they keep coming, each following the same routine: the phone call, the coach's room, the elevator ride, the questions.

"It's probably the worst moment of my hockey career," Winkler's Eric Fehr said, after being cut for the second-straight year. "It's unbelievable how down you get with news like that."

Joining Fehr was his teammate with the Brandon Wheat Kings, forward Ryan Stone. They're both 19, so neither will get another chance.

"I just want to get on the road and get out of here," Stone said.

That shouldn't be a problem.

You see, your gear has been secretly shipped from the arena to the hotel in advance.

With each phone call, someone down in the lobby is pulling another bag off the truck, one that says Wheat Kings or Blazers or Tigers on it, and it's waiting for you, along with your own driver, at the front door.

Talk about clinical precision.

And then you're on your way back to the Western League, or the Ontario League, leaving a dream, and what you thought were teammates, behind.

If you're lucky, you have something to look forward to real soon.

Like, say, a game against Red Deer, a team owned, coached and managed by none other than Brent Sutter.

"It's good we play the Rebels," Stone said. "We'll kick their ass."


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