Golden memories

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

PARDUBICE, Czech Republic -- It began with so many questions, yet ended with the answer Canadians wanted.

Even though this year's tournament marked Canada's fourth consecutive gold medal, it wasn't just another World Junior Hockey Championship.

Thanks in part to goalie Steve Mason's come-from-behind performance, forward Brad Marchand's heart-on-his-sleeve energy and a few thousand Canadian fans who injected life into the CEZ Arena, this world junior took on a life of its own.

Time, now, for one last look at 11 days in Pardubice.

BEST QUOTE: Team Canada's Marchand was talking about a picture he keeps in his room, a team photo taken after Canada won last summer's Super Series against Russia. In the middle is Marchand, wearing a suit and tie -- he was scratched from the lineup the last two games because he'd become a player with a bad attitude.

"It's a reminder of the player, the person, I don't want to be," Marchand said of the photo. "Every time I look at it, I remember."

Marchand completed his makeover at this tournament, and there he was, front and centre in another victory photo -- this time in full uniform, with a gold medal around his neck.

WORST QUOTE: Pretty much anything said by Team USA head coach John Hynes.

He may be a nice guy, but when it comes to actually saying anything of substance, Britney Spears has it all over Hynes.

If I hear him use the word "process" one more time, I'm going to hurl.

After the Americans lost to Russia in the bronze-medal game, you don't know how tempting it was to ask Hynes if taking a couple of too- many-men penalties was part of "the process."

MOST MEMORABLE GOAL: Is there any other choice?

It wasn't the prettiest or the most dynamic, but for pure drama Matt Halischuk's overtime winner in the final is as good as it gets.

This was pure, Canadian want-to, Shawn Matthias taking the puck to the net like it was the last thing he'd do.

Turned out it was.

FAVOURITE MOMENT: Captains Karl Alzner and Marchand leading their teammates into the stands with the championship cup, the name of which I still haven't been able to find out.

All tournament, the players talked about how much the Canadian fans meant to them, and here was their chance to pay them back.

It's the second year in a row the Canucks have done it, and like the singing of O Canada while standing along the blue-line, this is a tradition that should stick.

FAVOURITE MOMENT II: The Canadian players unfurling that 40-foot-by-20-foot flag that Riley Holzapfel's family brought from Regina -- in its very own suitcase -- as the crowd went nuts.

The flag, finagled from a Regina Husky station, was the inspirational focal point for Team Canada, a symbol of the huge amount of support they had, not only in the building, but back home.

FAVOURITE NON-HOCKEY MOMENT: New Year's Eve in the nearly 500-year-old Pardubice town square, where it became clear very quickly no rules apply to the setting off of fireworks.

I don't know if they're still celebrating the demise of communism, but it began at least an hour before midnight and didn't stop until nearly 1 a.m. -- the best, most chaotic fireworks display you'll see this side of Canada Day. And nobody in charge.

Youthful exuberance in a historic setting -- quite a combination.

WORST PR EFFORT: The Yanks, hands down.

When you have the tournament's leading goal-scorer going into the semifinal against Canada, and the kid grew up in Canada to boot, how can you not make him available to the media the day before the game?

Somebody high up in the USA Hockey hierarchy decided only the captains would be allowed to talk that day, muzzling ex-Winnipegger Colin Wilson.

It's too bad, because Wilson is a classy guy and a great interview who would have loved to sell the merits of the U.S. developmental program.

MOST PLEASANT SURPRISE ABOUT THE CZECH REPUBLIC: The food.

They may go a little heavy on meat and cream and lean on the fruit and vegetables, but these people know how to cook.

Pork and duck are specialties, and you can get a great meal for 10 bucks, Canadian.

But I won't mind if I never see another boiled wiener.


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