Tears for a champion

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:42 PM ET

THE tears began to flow as David Blunden spotted his gold-medal wearing son yesterday at the airport.

His son, Michael, had, the night before, done the improbable -- help knock off the favoured Russians in the final game of the world junior hockey championship.

And the father, who lives in Orleans, had come full circle.

"It's a feeling like when your child is born," said David Blunden.

He knows a thing or two about parenthood.

His three boys are all hockey players. Good ones, at that. Daughter Jennifer, 11, prefers ringette.

But yesterday he embraced his oldest son for the first time since, through the magic of TV, watching him score twice in Canada's 5-0 win.

Following a night of celebration and little sleep, Blunden and teammate Ryan O'Marra boarded a plane in Vancouver and arrived in Ottawa to play for the Erie Otters last night at the Civic Centre.

Michael achieved an important goal last summer when the Chicago Blackhawks picked him in the second round of the NHL draft.

SCORED TWO GOALS

But nothing, he said, compares to what happened in Vancouver on Thursday and the thrill he received scoring two big goals to become an instant hero to a nation mad about hockey.

"You just walk around here and everybody congratulates you and wants to check out your gold medal," said Blunden, his voice choking with emotion. "It's just something you can't explain."

Those who saw the game will remember the Canadian players belting out an off-key, yet beautiful version of O Canada after receiving their precious medals.

"It was something that I didn't want to let go," said O'Marra. "I didn't want to leave the ice. That whole experience was just unbelievable. I wish you could just pause it and rewind it over and over."

At the bottom of the escalator, close to the baggage carousels, David wiped away his tears and gripped his son's gold medal.

Jennifer Blunden also grasped the chunk of precious metal and placed it around her neck.

"You just can't explain this feeling. Phenomenal," said David.

"Phenomenal," he repeated. "When you dream about these things and they become reality, it's something else."

Elizabeth Blunden, David's wife, travelled to Vancouver to watch her son play for his country, and left dad in charge at home.

The Erie Otters play the 67's in Ottawa once each year, so it seemed almost a matter of fate for the Blundens that their son would return to his hometown -- of all places -- the day after winning hockey gold.

The 67's, as classy as ever, recognized Blunden and O'Marra in a special tribute to the Canadian squad before last night's opening faceoff.

Jeff Hunt, the 67's owner, presented the Canadian heroes with new watches. The fans responded with a standing ovation.

The Blundens experienced another hockey first last week when Stephen Blunden, the middle boy of the clan, played his first OHL game with the Belleville Bulls at the Civic Centre. The Otters will be in Belleville to play the Bulls today, which will put Michael and Stephen on opposite sides of the ice.

"I don't know where I'm going to stand on that one," said their mom with a laugh. "That's going to be so weird."

Their youngest son, Sean, is playing for the Gloucester Rangers midget team in the Gatineau Kiwanis tournament.

"We always said that the day when the hockey bag wasn't at the door, then that would be the moment we weren't doing anything anymore," said Elizabeth.

"They were the ones who kept this going."

And for that this hockey country is thankful.

barre.campbell@ott.sunpub.com


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