A Special Moment
When the schedule was released just after Christmas and we learned that the Quebec Jr. Nordiques would be our first opponent in the Colisee, we knew there would be strong interest from the locals in Quebec City. But you have to walk the streets of Quebec City to truly understand the love affair the Quebecois still have with their Nordiques nearly 18 years after the team was relocated to Denver to become the Colorado Avalanche in 1995. Driving to the Colisee Pepsi, former home to the Nordiques and host of the Pee Wee International Hockey Tournament, you pass by an enormous construction area that will soon become a new $400 million arena in Quebec City, an arena that the city hopes will be the home of an NHL franchise.
Walking through the ramparts of Vieux Quebec (Old Quebec City) on Rue St. Jean one cannot help but notice the abundance of Nordiques items that flood the windows of souvenir shops. Forsberg, Statsny and Goulet, among other names and numbers, adorn the back of the jerseys and t-shirts. But the one that stands out above all others, the most prevalent of all is No. 19, the number of Quebec City's beloved last captain, Joe Sakic.
Now a Hall of Famer, Sakic is known as one of the classiest players and greatest leaders the game has ever known. Drafted in 1987 in the first round, 15th overall, Sakic served as the Nordiques captain from 1992-1995. When the team moved to Denver, he served as the Avalanche captain from 1995 until he retired in 2009. Sakic's leadership was measured in action rather than words. In 2001, after the Avalanche secured their second Stanley Cup, Sakic demonstrated one of the most admired moves in the history of the game when he allowed Ray Bourque to raise the Stanley Cup after waiting 21 long years.
Shortly before our game, we learned that Sakic (whose son plays for the Colorado Thunderbirds in the Pee Wee Tournament) would be dropping the puck in the ceremonial face-off prior to our game. We as coaches were very excited for our players, but we soon found out that nothing could have prepared us for what transpired that afternoon. 10,000 fans turned out at the Colisee that afternoon to get a glimpse of Sakic and watch him walk down a red carpet to center ice for a photo op to drop a puck for two 12-year-olds. One of those 12-year-olds was our own captain, Ryan Trom. Trom, like Sakic, is a center and, like Sakic, relies on his actions to demonstrate leadership rather than words.
As the teams lined up on their respective blue lines, I checked on Trom to see if he understood what he needed to do and to be sure he could get his helmet off quickly for the photo op. Ryan gave me a huge excited smile, mouth guard still in, and a confident nod. I told him to lose the mouth guard so he spit it into his hand and put it in my jacket pocket. (I have two young kids... I can take it.) The last thing I said to him was, “Trommer, let their guy win, OK?” He laughed and said, “No problem coach.”
As the red carpet was rolled onto the ice and various sponsors and tournament officials made their way down the carpet, the PA announcer began his introduction. Even if it was not in French, and even if I could have heard a word he said I am not sure it would have mattered. The reaction of the 10,000 said it all, and it was impossible not to have chills run down your back as they rose to their feet to welcome back their captain. Ryan took his place at center ice, smiled big and (as instructed) let their guy win the face-off. When the ceremony ended, he came back to get his mouth guard and we both shared a giddy moment of pride and awe.
As coaches, we have learned that you can teach technique, strategy and x's and o's, but you cannot teach character and you cannot teach leadership. These are two qualities that put Joe Sakic in the NHL Hall of Fame and qualities that Ryan Trom possesses well beyond a typical 12-year-old kid from Raleigh, NC. The road thus far has been rough for the Jr. Canes. One goal in four games has been both surprising and disappointing, but the outcome never defines the experience when it comes to the Pee Wee Tournament.
Quebec City may or may not ever get another NHL franchise, and time will tell how Ryan Trom's career progresses. But for those that were in the Colisee at 2:15 p.m. on Feb. 17, that memory will remain forever and THAT is what it is all about.
The Jr. Hurricanes Have Landed!
After a great day of travel and some time for the boys to get some homework done – all while trying to contain their excitement about the trip – we arrived in Quebec City. We had an excited team once we touched down. After we collected our luggage, we had enough time to grab a team meal together before going and dropping the boys off with their host families. This is always a bit nerve-racking for the boys, but the host families are so excited and welcome them with open arms like they are their own kids who have been away for a year! After a good night sleep we hit the ice for a hard practice to get the travel legs out and get ready for the weekend. The Jr. Canes first tournament game is Sunday afternoon at 2:15 p.m. against the Jr. Nordiques. Follow our Twitter feed (@JrCanesQuebec) for updates!
Jr. Hurricanes Head Back to Quebec
For the 11th consecutive year, the Carolina Hurricanes are sending a team to the Quebec International Pee Wee Hockey Tournament (http://www.tournoipee-wee.qc.ca/EN/index.html). The Pee Wee team is comprised of 18 youth hockey players ages 11 and 12 from the Carolinas, who will be led and coached by Canes Youth and Amateur coordinator Shane Willis. Throughout the tournament you can keep up with the team two ways: Willis will be blogging to offer insight on the team’s play, recapture countless experiences from the historic city, tell tales and triumphs of individual players and more. You can also follow the Junior Hurricanes on Twitter (@JrCanesQuebec) for in-game updates, photos from daily experiences and more.
Last year, the team was moved up to the A Bracket after the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes dominated the Quebec Pee-Wee International B Bracket in 2011, coming home with the gold for its first Championship in this prestigious tournament. The team will once again compete in the A Bracket this year.
2013 marks the 54th anniversary of the Tournoi International de Hockey Pee-Wee de Quebec. The tournament hosts over 2,000 youth players who will play in front of 200,000 fans over an 11-day period. In addition to competing in the prestigious tournament, the players will be roomed with billet families in Quebec City and fully entrenched in the French-Canadian culture.
Ties to the Hurricanes are seen all over the tournament program. Ron Francis played for Sault Ste. Marie two consecutive years in 1975-76. Chad LaRose and Tim Gleason battled against each other one year as LaRose was with Detroit Compuware and Gleason was with Detroit Little Caesars. Drayson Bowman played in 2001 along with Derek Joslin and Brett Sutter. Bowman and Jiri Tlusty played in 2002. Also, Canes Vice President and Assistant General Manager Jason Karmanos and TV color man Tripp Tracy competed in the Quebec tournament.
Thanks for reading, and come back often!
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