On Jan. 5, 2015, Canada faced off against Russia in the gold medal game of the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. There were 19,014 fans at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto that night. Among them:
- Alex Beach, sitting 100-level above the goal line
- Ryan Blacquiere, sitting 300-level at centre ice
- Lara Loze MacDonald, sitting 300-level in the corner
Nearly 21 months have passed since that game was played, but it provided the three of them memories still as vivid as the day they were made.
Lara: “We took the train [from Oshawa to Toronto] and were there by 10 a.m. We tried to make it a whole experience, so we wandered around the exhibit area and did all the contests [in the Fan Zone].”
Ryan: “I got to the ACC an hour before puck drop and watched the warm-up. I took as much of everything in as I could. It’s kind of weird talking about it when you’re not even playing, but you definitely feel nerves, but also excitement. I remember the loudness of the building as the anthem was playing. I just couldn’t wait for the game to start.”
Alex: “Right as the game was beginning my mom texted me, ‘What’s it like in there?’ I was texting her, ‘It’s really loud,’ and then all of a sudden it’s, brrrr, the horn goes.”
Twenty-three seconds in, Anthony Duclair gave Canada a 1-0 lead.
Alex: “The team is celebrating, and I was like, ‘No, I missed it.’ I then tried to stay off my phone unless it was a commercial break. I didn’t want to miss anything else.”
Ryan: “I remember the roar that happened because people were already fired up. Right before puck drop you could hear people pounding on the glass in the lower levels, people cheering, and it gets to that point when they score and everything erupts.”
At 2:32, Nick Paul made it 2-0 Canada.
Alex: “You’re high-fiving your neighbours, and they’re people you don’t even know. It got super crazy, super quick.”
Lara: “I don’t think we actually left our seats the entire game, not even at the breaks. Nobody wanted to say, ‘Do you think that they’ll actually win?’ because I think everyone was worried about jinxing it.”
Russia got one back in the first period, but just past the midway mark of the second, Connor McDavid, Max Domi and Sam Reinhart had Canada up 5-1.
Alex: “At this point I was like ‘This is going to be a cakewalk, no problem.’”
Lara: “It was electric, but also like a collective holding of the breath because we knew our chances were really good but nobody wanted to vocalize could it actually happen. We knew it had been a long time since we had won.”
Ryan: “It was definitely a party atmosphere. But as we’ve seen in the World Juniors before you never know what can happen in a hockey game.”
Before the second period was over Russia had pulled within one goal.
Alex: “You could feel the air go tense for a little bit. But at the same time it never got so quiet that the energy died. People stayed positive and excited. It didn’t really feel like ‘Oh, no, we’re going to blow it.’ We needed to cheer and be loud so they have that momentum of the home crowd.”
Ryan: “As the game got closer and closer people were definitely more nervous. The last couple of minutes of the game, with Russia coming on stronger, the party atmosphere got a lot more nervous for sure.”
Alex: “I had a flag, so I was just holding on to the flag and had it over my face and probably stopped breathing for a bit. I kept looking at the clock and my friend, and we both kept looking at each other, it’s so close, come on, come on.”
Ryan: “I remember this because I took a photo of it, that last face-off to the right of [Zachary] Fucale with just under four seconds left. It’s so close – anything can happen but just hold on for another 3.9 seconds.”
Alex: “As soon as that final buzzer went, everyone was just going crazy. I’ve never been in an arena that loud before. I took a minute to just look around.”
Lara: “You’d think we were the parents of these kids. Everyone was congratulating each other. People were crying but happy – happy for them and happy that we were able to pull this off in Toronto.”
For the first time since 2009, the last anthem played at the World Juniors was ‘O Canada.’
Lara: “You feel connected to everyone in the building, that everybody feels this sense of pride for Canada and for the team. You realize it’s one of those memories that you’ll look back on 20, 30 years later and say we were at that game.”
Alex: “At home you’re usually not singing along, but when you’re there you’re totally a part of it. I took a picture so I could have the Canadian flag at the top and the boys on the line. I think that’s a unique moment for a Canadian, to be able to sing ‘O Canada’ after a gold medal hockey win.”
Lara: “I don’t think anyone wanted to leave.”
Ryan: “There was a lot of hooting and hollering and high-fiving on the walk from the Air Canada Centre back to Union Station [for the trip home]. And a lot of ‘Go Canada Go’ chants.”
Lara: “I think everyone taking the train home had been at the game or at a bar watching the game, and those that had been at bars were asking what it was like to be in the arena and all you could say was it was amazing, a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
Alex: “Once we got home we put it on TSN right away. You talk about it and your memories while you watch it, but you can’t match the same feeling as when you saw it live.”
Ryan: “You get so caught up in the moment and it’s hard to digest everything because you’re just trying to take everything in as much as you can. I had to go back and relive what happened. You can hear how loud it is watching the highlights [and I’m] just thinking, ‘Wow, I was actually there. I was kind of a part of that.’”