Although Belarus did not manage to win in any of its preliminary round games in Sydney, the crowd offered the team support in its final two games against Russia and the U.S.
One Sydney couple was cheering for the Belarus team because they had met Belarus coach Uladimir Melenchuk’s son, Dzmitry, prior to the game versus the Russians on Sunday night.
John Butterworth said prior the game against the U.S., “I’m cheering for Belarus today because he (Dzmitry) was very excited even when the team was losing.” Butterworth, a retired police officer added, “It’s going to be tough today because I’m a U.S. guy. They are our closest neighbour, so I feel they should get the support, but I think Belarus needs the fan support more.”
Mr. Butterworth’s wife, Roberta, agreed. “He seemed like a nice, polite kid and is very excited to be here. Even if the score was 9-0 he would be banging his hands and supporting his team.”
The Butterworths also had some special gifts for the 13 year-old Dzmitry on Monday. They gave him an “I am Canadian” scarf, a Cape Breton Screaming Eagles pin, and pictures of Team Canada’s goalie Marc-Andre Fleury who plays for the Eagles.
The couple have been supporters of Fleury and the Eagles since the team was formed in the area six years ago. “We’ve had season tickets every year and when we found out the World Juniors were going to be here, we got our passes as soon as we could,” stated Roberta. “I think it’s wonderful. We’ll never see this again, but I’m glad it’s here now.”
Young Dzmitry was very fond of the gifts he received which also included a World Junior Hockey Championship sweater from cameraman Keith MacMillan. When Dzmitry was asked if he liked the gifts, he responded, “Yes, very much. The people are very nice here.”
The crowd at Monday’s game was pro-Belarus and grew moreso as the U.S. played a physical contest against a much smaller Belarus team. Near the end of the game, the crowd began to boo the Americans when they continued to deliver hard body checks to the Belorusians while winning 8-2. The crowd also showed appreciation to goaltender Dzmitry Kamovich for the outstanding saves he made throughout the game.
When U.S. player Ryan Whitney was asked after the game if he was surprised by the crowd’s reaction he said, “You really can’t blame them because their country is Canada and we were beating the team on the scoreboard and also physically.”