2021 wjc family feature

Family takes care of family

They can’t be in the building, so the families of Canada’s National Junior Team are staying virtually connected with their loved ones – and with each other

Jason La Rose
January 2, 2021

In a decidedly untraditional year for Canada’s most enduring holiday hockey tradition, there aren’t many things that look similar to a “normal” year of the IIHF World Junior Championship.

Sure, the game on the ice is the same, but really … that’s about it.

One of the biggest changes has been the absence of fans in Edmonton, and included among the 18,000 strong who would have filled the building for Team Canada games are throngs of family and friends.

Instead, they are left to watch from home with the rest of Canada, hanging on every word from Gord Miller, Ray Ferraro, James Duthie, Bob McKenzie, Mark Masters and the rest of the TSN crew.

But Hockey Canada has made sure that even though they can’t be in Edmonton, Team Canada families are getting the gold-medal treatment from afar.

During every game through the preliminary round, moms, dads, sisters and brothers have been making appearances on TSN and on social media, showing that distance is no obstacle when it comes to supporting Team Canada at the World Juniors.

And all of them are resplendent in red and white, many wearing the same red heritage jerseys the Canadian contingent has worn for three of its first four games.

(Those limited-edition jerseys are available for fans to purchase at the official online store of Hockey Canada .)

That’s thanks to the Team Canada family program, which is going above and beyond this year to ensure families are part of the World Juniors experience, even if they’re doing it virtually.

Before the tournament started, families received care packages with jerseys, toques, hats, scarves and other apparel. Those items typically would come as Christmas gifts under the tree at the family hotel, but in true 2020 fashion, the delivery method this year was boxes on the doorstep.

And then there’s the social aspect. Last year in Ostrava, Czech Republic, families enjoyed a scavenger hunt, took trips to the Krakow, Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps and toured the Silesian Ostrava Castle, among a handful of other excursions.

This year? The main method of conversation is a WhatsApp group that has been buzzing since Boxing Day, and Zoom calls to help the families interact in the most face-to-face way possible considering the circumstances.

Just as it would be in a typical year, the goal is to bring families together much the same way Hockey Canada does with the players, to make the Garands in Victoria, B.C., and the Newhooks in St. John’s, N.L., feel as close as if they were in the same room.

There have even been a couple of bubble birthdays to celebrate.

In addition to the social media posts and post-game FaceTimes, families have connected to the players through personal videos, which were shown to the team on Christmas Day in advance of the start of the tournament.

For many players who are spending their first holiday season apart from their loved ones, and have been away from home since the start of selection camp on Nov. 16, the videos served as a nice little touch of something familiar.

No one reaches the World Juniors alone. The tournament is a culmination of years of commitment and dedication not only by the players, but by family and friends who have been along for the ride.

The 12 days in Edmonton are an opportunity to say thank you, and to bring the Hockey Canada family – from British Columbia to the Yukon, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador – together.

More than 5,000 kilometres – literally from coast to coast – separate this year’s World Juniors families, but thanks to Hockey Canada, they’ve never been closer.

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

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