'Hockey at its finest'

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

PARDUBICE, CZECH REPUBLIC -- Canadian fans flocked here by the hundreds, but Team Canada's opening game at the World Junior Hockey Championship wasn't quite as loud as it could have been.

"We're short two cowbells and a tambourine," Cez Duarte, a 31-year-old from Winnipeg, said as a sellout crowd of 10,000-plus at the CEZ Arena buzzed around him.

"Lost in transit. Hopefully they're here tomorrow."

For more reasons than one.

The noisemakers were part of the luggage belonging to Duarte's travelling companion, Eddie Kidzugane, a 33-year-old from Thompson, Man.

"Hopefully, the underwear will hold on," Kidzugane said.

Until his bags arrive, Kidzugane will have to settle for the clothes he was wearing yesterday, an ensemble that included a black Afro wig, offset by the red one worn by Duarte.

Kidzugane and another wigged-out fanatic, Ron Cantiveros of Winnipeg, are attending their fourth consecutive world junior tournament, after stops in Grand Forks, N.D., Vancouver and Sweden, last year.

"It's hockey at its finest," Cantiveros said. "When you tell people you're going to the world juniors, they say, 'Wow!' We don't have the Winnipeg Jets anymore, but I'm still a hockey fan, through and through."

So far, Cantiveros is a perfect three-for-three, as Canada has taken the gold medal each time he's attended.

If the streak ends, he can blame Duarte, who's along for the first time and, judging by his luggage issues, isn't exactly a good luck charm.

"These guys last year kept texting and e-mailing me about how good a time they were having," Duarte said, explaining why he made the trip overseas. "It's everything that I thought it would be, so far."

Ogling Czechs of the female persuasion figures to be second on Duarte's to-do list, behind cheering for his favourite team.

After Canada's 3-0 victory, he's off to a good start on both fronts.

"I'm in love with Petra," Duarte said, apparently choosing a name out of thin air. "I haven't met her yet. But I will this week."

Maybe he should talk to Santa, aka Jacob Foley, a 29-year-old from Fort St. John, B.C., who dressed up as old Saint Nick along with his buddy, Kevin Evancio, of Red Deer, Alta.

The two certainly caught the attention of some young Czech fans.

"I don't speak, 'cause I don't want them to know that Santa's Canadian," Foley said. "With this Santa suit comes responsibility. You've gotta smile. You can't just burp and drink."

Foley wasn't bearing any gifts for the locals, but he did have something in mind for everybody back home.

"I'm bearing a 4-1 victory for Canada," he said, before the game began.

Turns out this Santa is a pretty good prognosticator, too.


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