Canadian hockey fans are a special breed.
As a collective, they are more devoted to hockey than anywhere else in the world, easily rivalling the
soccer fans of England and Brazil. In every rink where hockey can be found, from the glamour of the Olympics,
to the bowels of the small-town house league, Canadian fans can be found short of breath while waving a
supportive flag. Or cowbell. Or air horn.
The 2003 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Halifax have introduced a new batch of amazing stories
to the folklore that is Canadian hockey heritage. I spent intermission after intermission sorting through
various stories and anecdotes that were circulating around the Metro Centre in search of ‘the one.’--the
story of a fan going above and beyond the normal to show support for Team Canada. To be here.
By accident, the story I was looking for fell right in my lap. While riding the elevator to the press box
one afternoon, I overheard the story of a man who went to grave lengths to come to Halifax to support his
national team. I followed the person connected to the story that day, looking for more details and trying to
uncover the source of it. As fortune had it, I met up with the person responsible for circulating Joe
I met Joe Blanchard and his wife, Joanne, for drinks one evening after Canada’s 4-1 victory over Germany
and got a first-hand account of his story.
“I went to PEI to spend Christmas with my mother,” Blanchard began, “but we got terrible news on Christmas
Day that my aunt died. The funeral was on the 28th and my other aunt asked me if I would be a pallbearer.
Between the bad news and the traveling, I didn’t get a chance to charge my cell phone so unfortunately my
wife had no way to get a hold of me.”
“I was in Halifax,” Joanne interjects, “and my niece told me on Christmas Day that she’d gotten Joe a
ticket to the Canada-Czech Republic game on the 28th. I know how much he likes hockey and I knew how bad he’d
want to be there.”
From Christmas day until the 28th Joe was still with his mother, and through the frenzy of arranging
accommodations and travel to the funeral he neglected to call his family in Halifax. Over those three days
Joanne became increasingly concerned that her husband might not call home to find about the ticket, so on the
morning of the 28th she took drastic measures.
Joanne turned to the internet and found the obituary for her in-law and promptly phoned the funeral home
that was in charge of the service. She made certain to explain to the funeral director that while it was not
of life-threatening urgency, it was vital that her husband call home. By this time, the funeral was in
The funeral director jotted a note on one of his business cards: “Joe Blanchard, Call wife immediately
regarding hockey tickets.” He handed the note to Joe during the service. Upon seeing the joy in Joe’s face
when he heard the news about the ticket, the assistant funeral director volunteered to take Blanchard’s place
as pallbearer on the way to the graveyard so that he might get to Halifax to see the game.
Joe received the note in Moncton at 11:30. “On the way back, I had to drop off my mother and my sister in
Shubenackadie at my nephew’s, but it was a quick stop. I joked with them the whole way that I was going to
have to leave them on the side of the highway,” Joe chuckled. “Luckily, I got to Halifax by 2pm, but then I
found out that the game didn’t start until four.”
Mr Blanchard made it to the game that afternoon and was one of the 10,583 capacity crowd that saw the
Canadians defeat the Czechs 4-0, but for him the game was a happy conclusion to a sorrow-ridden week. “It’s
always hard to lose someone, especially around the holidays, but to have something like this happen really
helps take your mind off of it.”
Mr. Blanchard is very grateful to his wife for the efforts she undertook to get in contact with him as
well as with his niece for getting the tickets and the funeral director for taking his spot. “He didn’t need
to do that for me. It wasn’t his job. He’s a good man, because he saw how much it would mean to me and he
helped me out.”
The Blanchards still had the card from Frenette’s funeral home in Moncton with the note still very
legible. When I asked if I could see it, they obliged graciously, and when I asked them if I could forward it
to the people at the Hockey Hall of Fame they seemed ecstatic. Hopefully, the note will one day take its
place in the hall among the historic memorabilia and be yet another testament to Canada’s devotion to
Game Night Reporter