Jilted juniors move on

Wheat Kings Eric Fehr (left) and Ryan Stone left Winnipeg disappointed after Canada's world junior...

Wheat Kings Eric Fehr (left) and Ryan Stone left Winnipeg disappointed after Canada's world junior selection camp. (Winnipeg Sun File/Brian Donogh)

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

The last time we saw Eric Fehr and Ryan Stone around these parts, they weren't exactly the picture of joy.

Come to think of it, they were downright steaming, literally and figuratively.

I can still see the two members of the Brandon Wheat Kings stepping outside the Fairmont Hotel on a chilly morning last month, heat rising from their heads, disappointment and anger rising in their hearts.

They'd just been cut from Canada's national junior team, Fehr for the second straight year.

Only this cut ran the deepest, since this was the last chance for both to play in a world junior championship.

"Not exactly my fondest memory of the arena," Fehr acknowledged yesterday. "I'm trying not to think about it too much... life's just gotta go on now."

That it has, particularly for Fehr.

The Wheat Kings take on the Saskatoon Blades here tonight -- the first of four regular-season games at the new, downtown arena -- with Fehr back where he was before Christmas, leading the Western Hockey League with 38 goals.

The Winkler product is also just three points off the overall scoring lead, suggesting he's put the disappointment behind him.

Stone's recovery has been a little slower.

With 55 points, the Calgary native sits fifth in league scoring, but admits he was in a bit of a post-world junior funk, until recently.

"I kind of had a slow start getting out of Christmas because of what happened," Stone said. "It was just on my mind, and I haven't been scoring so much lately that maybe I just gripped my stick too tight, or whatever. I try to forget about it. Now I think I'm rolling again here. I'm living in the present right now."

Of course, it's helped that since the tournament ended, people have stopped asking him about it.

Until yesterday, that is, when some slime-ball newspaper guy dredged the whole thing up again.

I would have thought Fehr and Stone wouldn't even watch the world junior, what with all the inevitable thoughts of what might have been.

Forget it. Both saw Canada take its first gold medal in seven years down in Grand Forks.

"It was a little weird, knowing you had a chance to be there and everything like that," Fehr said. "But we were cheering them on just like everyone else was."

That doesn't mean they didn't picture themselves on the ice here and there, though.

Let's face it, as good as Team Canada was, they probably could have switched a player or two and still rolled to gold.

"You can't really be worrying about it," Fehr said. "You've got to go out and play, prove you should have been there and all that, but just go out and play."

As usual, Stone was a little more direct.

"I definitely could have played on the team," he said, not a hint of bitterness in his voice.

It reminds me of that morning at the Fairmont. Both players were biting their tongues after being cut by coach Brent Sutter, but Stone's final words were something like, "It's good we play Red Deer next. We'll kick their ass."

Red Deer is coached and owned by Sutter. Turns out the Wheaties beat 'em in overtime, with Fehr scoring the winning goal. Maybe that's why he got the disappointment out of his system a little quicker.

Don't think it's forgotten, though.

You see, the next time the Wheat Kings play Red Deer, Sutter will actually be back behind the bench.

You think Fehr knows when that game's coming?

"We play them in about a week and a half," he said.

Just one more step in the healing process, you might say.


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