Team Canada gets props from the PM

Prime Minister Stephen Harper hams it up with Team Canada fan Nathan Kline during the World Junior...

Prime Minister Stephen Harper hams it up with Team Canada fan Nathan Kline during the World Junior Hockey Championship bronze medal game in Calgary, Alta., Jan. 5, 2012. (DARREN MAKOWICHUK/QMI Agency)

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:12 PM ET

CALGARY - Don Hay may be a great coach, but he's the last guy you'd want organizing a surprise party for you.

That became abundantly clear following Canada's 4-0 win over Finland to claim world junior gold Thursday.

"After the game, he said 'we have a special guest speaker,' and then he said 'Mr. Harper will be in shortly' -- so we knew who it was then," said Canadian forward Brendan Gallagher of the "surprise" locker-room visit from Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"It's really cool -- you see him on TV, and he's always at these events. He's a big hockey fan. He just congratulated us and said he knew how tough it must have been to play in a bronze-medal game, but he was proud of how we left on a good note."

Quinton Howden had no issues with coach Hay's botched introduction.

"He kind of ruined it a bit early, but it was still special," said a smiling Howden, who had two goals in the game.

"It was pretty cool -- I had never met someone that high up before. It was something he didn't need to do but something we'll remember the rest of our lives. We all shook his hand and got a team picture with him -- it was a special moment."

Count defenceman Mark Pysyk as the only one caught off-guard by Harper's appearance, even though the PM calls Calgary home.

"I was surprised," said a beaming Pysyk, who insisted he didn't talk politics with the PM.

"Not every day you meet the prime minister. He said he was proud of us, and I got a picture with him. It was great."

Harper's office issued a statement after the game.

"On behalf of all Canadians, I congratulate our junior men's hockey team on its performance and bronze medal at this year's world junior hockey championship," it read.

"Once again, Team Canada players have shown that they have what it takes to play the best hockey teams in the world. Their spirit, strength and perseverance are an inspiration to us all, and I look forward to following their accomplishments in the years to come."

eric.francis@sunmedia.ca

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