The 2006 TELUS Cup was a memorable one for Dustin Tokarski, but not for the reasons you may think.
Sure, Tokarski helped his Prince Albert Mintos to a perfect 7-0 record and their first national championship. And sure, he was the winning goaltender in the longest game in tournament history, the Mintos’ 5-4 triple overtime victory over the Calgary Buffaloes in the gold medal game.
For Tokarski, though, the excitement came from being able to see a new part of his country.
“Even though the hockey aspect came before, it was fun to travel,” he says. “Being a kid from Saskatchewan, I hadn’t been out in Eastern Canada, so it was a great new experience. It was the cherry on the cake that we were able to win.”
The tournament, and the national title, was a stepping stone for the Watson, Sask., native, who won a Memorial Cup with the Spokane Chiefs in 2008, added a gold medal for Canada at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship and made his NHL debut on Jan. 19, 2010.
“It was the first national championship for me so the nerves were high,” he says. “There was media everywhere and a lot of attention on us. It was a really cool experience that thought me a lot as I moved forward with my career.
“Anytime you can play in a high pressure environment and in championship games, it’s a huge boost for you mentally and getting used to that kind of pressure is great for a goaltender.”
Now a member of the Montreal Canadiens organization, Tokarski has some very simple advice for how to approach playing at the TELUS Cup.
“I would tell kids to just have fun and enjoy it. It’s a great tournament with possibilities coming out of there with scouts and colleges. All exposure is good exposure; you never know who is watching.”
TELUS Cup Team & Year: Prince Albert Mintos, 2006
TELUS Cup Finish: gold medal
NHL Entry Draft: 2008, Tampa Bay Lightning (5th round, 122nd overall)
NHL Teams: Tampa Bay Lightning (2010, 2012); Montreal Canadiens (2014)
NHL Statistics: 10 GP; 3-3-1; 2.93 GAA; .902 SV%; 1 SO
Team Canada Experience: IIHF World Junior Championship (2009, gold medal)