The outfit of choice in the stands at this year’s IIHF World Junior Championship is definitely the Team Canada jersey. But make no mistake – the European teams have their fans too, and not all of those fans hail from overseas.
Take Trish Cubitt from Calgary for example. During Monday’s game between Canada and Switzerland she was one of very few fans sporting a Swiss jersey and her family may have been the only Canadians not cheering for the home nation.
In 2006 Cubitt’s family billeted injured Swiss forward Alain Berger at the Mac’s Midget Tournament in Calgary. Despite Berger being injured during an exhibition game against Austria and unable to play they made the trip to Saskatoon to cheer him and his Swiss teammates on.
“It’s a shame that Alain is hurt and we didn’t get a chance to see him play but we’re here rooting for him and the Swiss anyway,” she said.
The Latvian team has also earned themselves a tiny but loyal following in Saskatoon at this year’s tournament, which includes Ryan and Martin Winquist of Saskatoon.
“We decided at the Latvia - Slovakia game to throw our weight behind the Latvians. The whole stadium was behind them and we kind of got caught up in it,” said Ryan.
The two brothers bought themselves Latvian team jerseys during that game and wore them proudly at the Credit Union Centre again yesterday as their adopted team took on the United States.
The tournament has also given a few European ex-pats living in Canada like Manfred Gerber a chance to cheer on their home nations. Gerber was born in Switzerland but married a Canadian and now has dual citizenship.
“It’s very nice to see my home country and my adopted country play here. For me it’s win-win,” he said.
Gerber knows his Swiss have little chance of challenging the top teams in the tournament but that’s not the most important thing he says.
“It’s just great for Saskatoon to host the tournament, and it has been nice to watch such good hockey.”
The European teams can also rest assured that anytime one of them goes up against the United States, Canada’s legion of fans will rally behind them. Because after all, there’s nothing better than cheering against the States.