Players cheered everywhere they went

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

It wasn't just during the games that Team Canada felt the support of Manitobans this past week.

Sometimes it would come in the form of a volunteer offering a ride back to the hotel.

Or from patrons at a local restaurant, offering their best wishes over dinner.

Occasionally, a perfect stranger would even offer to buy a player a drink.

"This has probably been the best world championship to date, in terms of attendance and crowd support and just the way the community's embraced it," Team Canada captain Hayley Wickenheiser said yesterday. "And walking around the city, talking to people, they're more than happy to help you out. A lot of volunteer spirit here. People on the streets (saying), 'Good luck,' and all that stuff. It's been nice."

Wickenheiser was even offered a free drink one night. And, yes, she accepted.

"I wish somebody would buy me a drink," cracked head coach Melody Davidson. "It's been a great atmosphere and we've been treated very well. There's nothing better than the players stepping on the ice and seeing that full rink. They just love it.

"A huge thank-you to the City of Winnipeg and Selkirk. We always know Canadians are behind hockey. But this type of showing is just going to raise the bar the next time we host in this country."

The event was extra-special for local products Jennifer Botterill and Delaney Collins.

Everywhere they and their teammates went, it seemed people were cheering them on.

NONSTOP

"It's been nonstop," Botterill said. "Whether you're walking through the hotel lobby ... or we're out for dinner the other night and people stop by our table. And they didn't want to bother you, they just wanted to say a word of support.

"Or we'd walk through Tim Horton's to get a cup of tea (yesterday) morning, and again people in line at Timmy's said, 'Good luck tonight.' And the drivers of the shuttles. It's not a distraction, when people are so kind and so generous and just want to be there for you."

The support translated into ticket sales, too, with crowds in excess of 10,000 for Canada's preliminary games, and culminating in sellouts of 15,000-plus for two games against the U.S., including last night's gold-medal final.

American head coach Mark Johnson says the crowds left a mark on his team, too.

"It gives the players a little appreciation of the passion Canadian folks have for hockey," Johnson said. "You couldn't ask for anything more than if there's 10,000 people in the building. They don't get that very often."


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