Morrissey’s Musings: Josh Morrissey checks in from the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in Russia
Saturday, April 13:
The day following our team’s first-round knockout against the Red Deer Rebels held very mixed emotions. It still hadn't set in that our long season had actually ended the night before and I was celebrating my 18th birthday, although, considering the circumstances of our season ending, I wasn't jumping with joy.
My day brightened, however, once I received a call notifying me that I'd been selected to represent my country for a third time at the U18 level, and the tournament was to be played in Sochi, Russia, the host of the 2014 Winter Olympics. I had a week to get ready before departing for our camp in Toronto, and I still had to pack up my life from the past seven months at my billet house in Prince Albert, Sask., drive home to Calgary, unpack, and pack for the tournament.
Needless to say, it was a busy week.
This is my third time representing Canada, as I played in the 2012 world championship in Brno, Znojmo and Breclav in the Czech Republic, where we won a bronze medal, and the 2012 Ivan Hlinka tournament in Breclav, Czech Republic and Piestany, Slovakia, where we won the gold medal. It is always an honour representing Canada; it’s a feeling really unmatched by much else. As a kid growing up watching the Canadians battle on TV, at the World Juniors, the Olympics and various other international events, it always gave me shivers imagining what it would be like to play for Canada, and I dreamed, as many Canadian kids do, of one day pulling that jersey over my head. To have had that chance twice before, and knowing very soon a third time, is pretty surreal.
Upon arriving in Toronto I noticed many familiar faces, from staff to players. It was especially nice to see Morgan Klimchuk, Sam Reinhart, Nick Ritchie, Yan-Pavel Laplante and Shea Theodore, who I played alongside on last summer’s gold medal-winning team at the Ivan Hlinka. This was also my third time playing U18 with Sam, who, like myself, was also representing Canada at U18 for the third time.
Our first few days in Toronto were busy with fitness testing and training, as well as some on-ice work, and a lot of stories were told from our long seasons. It was cool to meet many new faces, guys from different leagues and backgrounds, and get to know everyone that I would be battling alongside for the next month. It is a very unique experience, coming together as a team with people and players you've never met and in a few weeks developing chemistry on and off the ice in hopes of winning a gold medal.
As the week progressed, everything started to come together more and more. Everyone was bonding more and more and the practices were becoming more crisp and smooth. We were all tired from the long days filled with lots of information and work, and when we had time to rest, we definitely used it. For me, the highlight of the week was hearing from Ron Ellis, who played in one of the most famous hockey events in Canadian history, the 1972 Summit Series. He talked a lot about the history of the series and had stories and facts about it, including the road to the amazing comeback in Russia, where they won three straight games to win the series. Hearing that, and how much adversity they overcame to win, more than once gave me shivers.
Our long journey to Sochi began on a flight to Istanbul, which took roughly 10 hours, although with our experience on the different buses in junior hockey in the CHL, most guys managed to sleep okay. We had a long layover, where we ate and relaxed, before our flight to Sochi. As we were making our descent into Sochi, we all noticed one thing – the brand new hockey arena built for the Olympics, covered in changing lights and colours, lighting up the dark sky around it. After a hard week of preparation and a tough day of travel, we knew we were finally here.