by Chris Ballard | AHL On The Beat Archive
St. John’s IceCaps forward Patrice Cormier played with Team Canada twice at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships and he experienced more in those two tournaments than most players soak in throughout an entire career.
The Cap-Pelé, New Brunswick native first cracked the roster ahead of the 2009 tournament and with a team of future NHL superstars like John Tavares, PK Subban
and Evander Kane set to make the team, Cormier didn’t think he even had a chance.
“I wasn’t even expecting to make the team,” Cormier said. “I got the call from Benoit Groulx
and he told me I was invited to summer camp. I was like “What?!” I went there with returnees like Drew Doughty and Kyle Turris
and those guys made the NHL that year and there were a couple of spots open and I made the team.”
Cormier’s first tournament, held in Ottawa, went down in history as one of Canada’s greatest moments in World Junior history as the team’s top players became household names thanks to their clutch play in big moments.
In the hyped New Year’s Eve match against the United States, the Americans roared out of the gate and earned a three-goal first period lead before Tavares sparked Team Canada with a hat trick, en route to a 7-4 Canada victory, marking one of the most exciting games in Team Canada history.
Just three days later, Team Canada upped the ante as Jordan Eberle
scored a massive-game tying goal with 5.4 seconds remaining to tie the game against Russia in the semi-finals, which sparked Canada to a 6-5 shootout victory. To this day, the Eberle goal still ranks as TSN’s number one World Juniors moment in history.
And Cormier wasn’t just a spectator for these moments. He was a big part of them.
“Not to be selfish, but I scored my first goal that game,” he said of the historic semi-final victory.
“I just remember the Russian guys iced the puck when they went for the empty-netter and they were all laughing about it. All the while, we were on the bench saying “I can’t believe we’re going to go for bronze”. Nobody wanted bronze. After Eberle scored, we knew it was over. They were crushed. Then we won in a shootout and moved on to play Sweden for gold.”
Canada crushed Sweden 5-1 in the gold medal game to earn Canada’s fifth consecutive World Junior Hockey Championship. The moment was even more special for Cormier, because his family traveled to Ottawa for the gold medal game. Even his brother Kevin, who was playing for the AHL’s Lowell Devils
managed to make it.
“For the final, my brother was playing in Lowell,” Cormier explained. “And that day, he drove to Ottawa for the finals and drove through the night to be at his own practice the next morning. I lifted the cup and saw them in the crowd. It was pretty cool.”
The following year, Cormier was eligible to return to Team Canada for the 2010 tournament held in Saskatoon and Regina and with the 2009 experience under his belt, he immediately became one of the leaders on the team and was an easy choice to be named captain.
“Being captain the second year was huge,” he said. “A big honour. I didn’t expect it at all. There were three or four returning player, including Eberle. To be captain was pretty big.”
One might expect that to perform the duties of captain for Team Canada during such a pressure-packed tournament would be a difficult task, but Cormier admits his role was made easier by having a team full of leaders.
“You don’t have to do much," he said frankly. “Everybody is captain of their [junior] team. It’s a room full of leaders. Everybody had been drafted into the NHL. Everyone was a top guy. Nobody needed to be led. Everybody knew what they needed to do."
Team Canada dropped the gold medal game in overtime to the United States, ending their five-year reign atop the hockey world.
“Two gold medals would have been better than a silver," he said. "I go home in the summer and I look at it and say ‘So close!’ It was a great experience being in Canada again with a great group of guys. It’s just something I’ll have and cherish for the rest of my life. I still have my medals, the ring, videos, tapes, DVDs, and pictures of everything we did as a team. That’s the biggest thing for me.”