A glimpse at what went on behind the scenes: World Junior hopefuls, Russian humour, and most importantly, Canadian pride
by Tieja MacLaughlin
As a journalist, this event was exciting on many levels. First and foremost, and I’m sure most of you would agree, the intensity when entire countries compete against one another is unprecedented in comparison to the degree of play between regional teams.
International events bring about a whole new level of pride, not only for the players, but trickling down to even the least-knowledgeable hockey fan.
Team OHL ended up shutting out the Russians by a final score of 4-0, which was much needed after the QMJHL lost the first two games of the series for the CHL. In my opinion, the Russians looked flat and it appeared the travelling had caught up with them. Team OHL is now undefeated in Super Series history (15-0).
Some of these players have been drafted, and many of them will go on to represent Team Canada at the World Junior Championships this Christmas. Seeing them play here before they reach the big stage, is like getting the opportunity to watch a band play at an intimate and local venue before they’ve gone on to million dollar record deals.
A journalist’s dream, the rosters of 17 and 18-year old players were more or less excited to be interviewed, and they were more personable than older players who have been de-sensitized by all of the media attention.
Of course as expected, I had a hay-day speaking with the Russians. I always have a great time interviewing import players – I find it intriguing to hear about their different cultures, not to mention, it’s always entertaining trying to overcome the language barrier.
Vladislav Namestnikov (forward) and Igor Bobkov (goaltender) - both who play for the London Knights during the regular season - were the only two Russian players available to the media, simply because they were the only two who could string together a few words of English.
The highlight of the day for me was Bobkov, in his broken English, explaining how Russian defensemen are better than Canadians – “Sometimes in Ontario, defensemen (uhm how you say) are not so good as Russians.”
Just to clarify I had understood his point, I reiterated, “So Russian defensemen are stronger than OHL defensemen?”
His answer, “Yes. For me, yes.”
I should’ve asked the OHL d-men what they thought about that.
For Team OHL I spoke with Erik Gudbranson, Calvin de Haan, Taylor Doherty, and Ryan Murphy.
What surprised me the most, was the proximity the fans had to the athletes – to get seat access to one section of the stands, fans would have to walk behind the athlete as they were doing their on-air interviews. All I was thinking was what a disaster that would be if some obnoxious kid decided to pull a prank.
For myself personally, there were a few perks that came with my media credentials. For the opening ceremonies I was standing beside Vladislav Tretiak - although we never actually spoke - on the tail end of the red carpet just off the ice, and let me tell you, there’s no better view than that.
For the duration of the game I sat from a vantage point with the rest of the media, broadcasters, and scouts – also very neat.
After the game, I stayed a bit later than most of the other media to really soak up the experience. The Russian players were playing with a soccer ball for their cool downs, and I just observed as they made jokes – all of which I obviously could not understand.
Overall what really hit home with me was as the players left their dressing rooms, they slung their bags over their shoulders and carrying their sticks, loaded up the buses themselves. That was a treat to see; and quite humbling – brings you back to minor hockey days.
Looking forward to the remainder of the Super Series, Team OHL has one more game in Sudbury next week before the Russians moves on to the west coast for the WHL leg of the tournament.