As Brayden Schenn watched his older brother Luke celebrate another Canadian gold medal at the 2008 IIHF World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic, he dreamed of the day he’d wear the maple leaf at a World Juniors.
Now, the younger Schenn might get the chance to do it in his hometown.
With the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship coming to Saskatoon and Regina, Canada’s Saskatchewan-born under-18 stars are excited by the possibility of playing in front of a home crowd.
“It would be amazing to put on the Canadian jersey in Saskatoon,” says Schenn, one of six Saskatchewanians – along with Carter Ashton, Jimmy Bubnick, Jared Cowen, Brayden McNabb and Garrett Mitchell – named to the National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team. “It’s always an honour to wear the maple leaf, but to be able to do it on home ice would be unreal.”
Seventeen years ago, the Prairies hosted the world for the first time, as the 1991 IIHF World Junior Championship came to not only Saskatoon, but the entire province of Saskatchewan – in total, nine venues (Humboldt, Kindersley, Moose Jaw, North Battleford, Prince Albert, Regina, Rosetown, Saskatoon and Yorkton) played host to games.
Today, the province is home to five Western Hockey League teams (Moose Jaw Warriors, Prince Albert Raiders, Regina Pats, Saskatoon Blades and Swift Current Broncos) and, according to Cowen, some of the country’s most passionate hockey fans.
“No one was really surprised that we (Saskatchewan) got it, because there are a lot of hockey towns and a lot of hockey people,” says the native of Allan, just 58 kilometres southeast of Saskatoon. “Everyone there, young or old, plays or watches hockey – it’s a big part of people’s lives, and they embrace the game.”
So with the country’s best under-18 players gathering in Calgary last week, fighting for the honour of putting on the Canadian jersey, were there any thoughts of 17 months into the future, when many of the same players will have the chance to take to the ice in Saskatchewan?
Both Cowen and Schenn say it is tempting to think about what may be, but the focus needs to be on now, and on the task at hand – winning a fourth gold medal in five years at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
“When they first announced that we were hosting, of course everyone thought about it, thought about what it could be like,” Cowen says. “But right now, everyone is thinking about under-18, and focusing on under-18, because that is what we are here to do.”