Both Mathew Bodie and Jacob Laliberte ‘have been here before.’
Bodie has been the captain of a team at a Hockey Canada event, leading the Winnipeg Thrashers to a silver medal at the 2008 TELUS Cup in Arnprior, Ont., where he picked up top defenceman and MVP honours.
Laliberte has been to a World Junior A Challenge, helping Canada East win bronze last year in Camrose, Alta., scoring twice – once in the bronze medal game – and adding an assist in four games in his international debut.
And although they play at opposite ends of the country – Bodie is a member of the BCHL’s Powell River Kings, while Laliberte takes to the ice for the Cornwall Colts of Ontario’s CJHL – their paths have crossed at the 2009 World Junior A Challenge.
Bodie and Laliberte have joined an exclusive club in Summerside, earning the right not only to wear the maple leaf on their chests, but to wear the captain’s ‘C’ as well.
“I don’t think you can really put it into words,” Bodie says of being named captain. “No one expects to come in and be the captain of Team Canada. We have so many leaders on our team who don’t have letters, so it’s an incredible honour to be named.”
Being captain is nothing foreign to either of these players – Bodie is the on-ice leader for the Kings, while Laliberte fulfills the same role for the Colts – but it’s the mystique of playing for Team Canada that makes it a little different this time around.
“The first thing I thought of, to be honest, was Ryan Smyth,” Bodie says, referring to the former Edmonton Oilers star who captained Canada at the IIHF World Championship from 2001-05. “It’s just such a huge honour. I think my mind went blank for a few seconds.”
Both players have turned their Junior A successes into post-secondary scholarships, with Bodie set to attend Union College in the fall, while Laliberte will enroll at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
But past the letter on their jerseys and their NCAA commitments, there are few similarities between the two players.
Laliberte is an offensive juggernaut, sitting fifth in Central Junior Hockey League scoring with 37 points, including 21 goals, in just 17 games, leading the Colts to the second-best record in the CJHL.
Bodie is the embodiment of a stay-at-home defenceman, although his offensive skills shine through from time to time, as evidenced by his end-to-end shorthanded goal in Tuesday’s 6-3 win over Sweden.
And as of the end of preliminary round play on Tuesday, it is Bodie who leads the head-to-head scoring race, adding an assist to his goal for two points, while Laliberte has just a single goal to his credit thus far.
However, Bodie would certainly relinquish his lead in the Canadian captain scoring derby for a spot in the semifinals, which Laliberte and Canada East have already secured thanks to their first-place finish in Group B.
Canada West will need to defeat Belarus in Thursday’s quarter-final to join Canada East and ensure the tournament of its first-ever all-Canadian semifinal, and the first WJAC game to feature both Canadian entries since the 2007 gold medal game in Trail, B.C., won by the westerners.