December 12, 2011
Fun for juniors ... until the phone rings
By TERRY JONES, QMI Agency
CALGARY - It’s now a countdown to complete and utter devastation — 68 hours to one of the cruelest moments in sport.
At 9:58 a.m. Sunday, at the exceptional, new $225-million WinSport complex at Canada Olympic Park, Nathan Beaulieu was the first skater to take the ice.
There was excitement and exhilaration on his face and on the faces of those who followed.
But in 68 hours, at the end of the bulky 42-man, three-day camp featuring four goaltenders, 14 defencemen and 24 forwards, it will be a bust for almost half of them hoping to play for Team Canada at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship.
Some of them will be cut Monday after two practices and two Red versus White games. The rest ...
Sixty-eight hours after Beaulieu’s skate blades touched the ice — at 6 a.m. Wednesday — all but 22 of those remaining will get a wake-up call in the Sheraton Four Points hotel directly across the Trans-Canada highway from the new facility to tell them their dream of wearing the Maple Leaf for Canada has died.
It’s one of the saddest sights in sport, these teenagers forced to answer the phone, pack their bags, say goodbye to a roommate and then, bags in hand, go to a coaches room in the hotel to make it official.
And if that isn’t tough enough, these gutted young guys then must troop through the lobby where a collection of bleary eyed media members are forced to gather like a bunch of vultures to listen to their voices break and their eyes water as they try to explain their emotions.
And then it’s out the door and to the airport for the first flight out of town to wherever their junior team is playing that night and everything involved in that.
Several players here know the heavenly high of the first time they step on the ice at camp and the dreadful low of hearing that phone ring 68 hours later.
Like Ryan Murphy of the Kitchener Rangers.
“It goes by so fast. And then you’re saying goodbye,” he said.
“When you get here, it’s a dream come true.
“Growing up, every Boxing Day, I sat on the couch watching the World Junior. And then you go to camp and experience this and start to think you’re pretty close and then ...”
Then the phone rings.
“My heart just dropped,” said Murphy.
“Jared Cowan was my roommate. I knew he wasn’t getting cut. I knew it was for me.
“I was 17. Not many 17-year-olds make this team. But now I’m 18 and I know what to expect. They’ve done their scouting. But they want to see how you look here against other high-calibre players. For the most part I don’t think the team has been chosen yet.”
Mark Pysyk of the Edmonton Oil Kings says there’s almost no point going to bed.
“You’re not really sleeping. Every little sound you hear wakes you up, thinking it’s going to be the phone call. You lay there sort of willing it not to ring,” said the native of Sherwood Park.
“Marcus Faligno was my roommate. When the phone rang I asked if they said Mark or Marcus? I knew they said Mark, but ... I was still hoping they’d say Marcus.
“The feeling is hard to describe. It’s devastating, especially to go down to the lobby and have the media in your face after that’s just happened to you. And then you spend days and weeks thinking about what you did and didn’t do. It’s such a short time.”
Brandon Gormley, the P.E.I. player of the Moncton Wildcats can relate to disappointment in a double whammy sort of way.
He’s been cut. He’s been injured. And, at 19, this is his last chance.
“It was heart-breaking both ways, to tell you the truth” said the defenceman. “When I was 17, I’d never been cut by any team in hockey before.
“I was drafted by Phoenix and went to camp in the fall and was cut by the Coyotes, the first thing I told myself was I’d be able to play for Canada in the World Junior. Then, on Nov. 26, I dislocated a knee cap. I didn’t get back to skating until they’d played the gold-medal game.”
All you can do is tell yourself you’re not the first. At least these kids, this year, can tell themselves it happened to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins last year and he has 32 points in his first 30 NHL games.