In a sea of red Tshirts, a fan wearing a maple leaf might not seem out of the ordinary. After all, Canadian flags are being waved from all corners of the arena and brightly colored posters boast messages from "One, TooToo, Three, GO!" and "Scottie is a Hottie." But in a jam-packed Metro Centre, one man certainly stands out.
Call him Captain Canada or maybe Canada’s hockey ambassador, but he is going the extra mile to bring smiles to people’s faces and add his own kind of energy to the arena. Meet Blair LeBlanc of Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia, one of team Canada’s biggest fans.
Wearing a painted red hockey helmet, complete with flags and a puck, LeBlanc checks the flashing headlight in the front of his headwear using the reflection of his wedding band. "I have four levels of flashing," he explains. "It gets brighter as the team plays well. For a goal I put it all the way to level four."
Now, a helmet alone does not an ultimate fan make, so LeBlanc sports other accessories for support--white and red face paint, maple leaf patches on his jeans and jacket, red shoes, and a few key phrases such as "Go Canada Go!," "I am Canadian," and "Halifax welcomes the world". You might say he is a walking, talking billboard, and while cheering and running amongst the fans, he certainly gets just as much attention as some of the players on the ice.
LeBlanc says that the reaction has been great. "Everyone has a smile or laugh. Several people have requested a photo; one girl even stole a kiss as she had her picture taken with me," he says, smiling. "I enjoy the attention and love to meet and talk to new people from all over Canada and other countries as well."
LeBlanc started watching hockey with his two brothers when they were kids. His older brother was a Boston Bruins fan, he says with a chuckle, so he became Montreal Canadiens fan just to be contrary. LeBlanc says that things were different for hockey fans back then. He never would have seen the World Juniors if they were on back then. He still remembers having only two channels on the old black-and-white televison and watching Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights.
"We started playing hockey at age five. Back then (1969) it cost $45 a year for three of us to play for one year. Wow! I played organized hockey until I was 18 and continue to strap on skates any time I get the chance. My 10-year-old son is now playing."
But watching on televison and wearing the "maple leaf" are two different things. The costume was introduced when LeBlanc chose to dress up for the Molson Canada and Halifax Herald "I AM CANADIAN" contest in which three contestants were given 15 seconds to perform a rant, just like the famous "I AM CANADIAN" rant by "Joe."
The two judges decided to let the crowd decide who the winner would be. LeBlanc went first and warmed the crowd up, as did contestant #2 and then contestant #3 walked away with the two complete tournament packages, because they applause had snowballed. After the contest was over LeBlanc says he was congratulated by dozens of fans who were telling him that he should have won, which was a surprise to him.
"I woke up the next morning to see my face splashed on the cover of Metro's Daily News with the headline ‘CRAZY FOR CANADA’," he says. "I had so much fun participating in the contest and had super fan powers wearing my Captain Canada costume that I also wore it to the next Canada -Finland game on Monday night before the tournament started."
Since then, luck has turned around for Blair LeBlanc. He has managed to pick up a few tickets to tournament games and even winning a best-dressed fan contest at the Canada-Germany game. LeBlanc says that this is not something he has tried before but he says he enjoys coming out of his shell and running around trying to get the fans to make some noise.
"The games so far have been great. The building is absolutely electric." he says "Canada is playing great and, of course, I predict they will be in the gold medal game."
And just maybe "Captain Canada" will be there to see the game. He does not have tickets yet, but if he does get in, it’s not likely you will find him in his seat. Instead, he’ll be mixing with the crowd encouraging the fans to join him, because anyone can cheer.
"The ultimate fan is someone who loves the game enough to put himself out there and do something they totally never believed they could do just to be at a game," he says. "Three short weeks ago I never would have believed that I could or would do this much just to be there watching Team Canada."