I’ve been pretty lucky in my hockey career. I’ve had the chance to do things and go places that most who lace up a pair of skates only dream about. I’ve been to the Olympics, I’ve been to the world championship, I’ve been deep into the NHL playoffs … there’s not much I haven’t experienced.
But through all that, through all the ups and downs of my career, there’s one moment that really stands out, and that’s getting the chance to play in the 1993 Air Canada Cup (known today as the TELUS Cup), to play for Canada’s National Midget Championship.
To me, it was one of the last chances to play with friends I had been on the ice with all my life, friends I had played with at the local rink, on the frozen pond and in the streets, and to do it on a national stage. We didn’t travel far, only to Kitchener, Ont., but the experience was once in a lifetime.
We won more games that year than any Sault Ste. Marie team had before or has since at the tournament, finishing 4-1 in the round robin and advancing to the semifinals. But our gold medal dreams ended with a 4-1 loss to Yorkton, and although we did win the bronze medal and I was named Top Goaltender, I know we were all disappointed. Every team that gets to the TELUS Cup, that is one of the best six teams in Canada, believes it has a chance to win, and rightfully so.
So now, 20 years later, what does the TELUS Cup mean to me? It’s simple, really. It’s hockey in its purest form – playing the game for the love of the game. There are no pressures of professional hockey; it is about representing your team, your community and yourself, and just playing.
I could not be more excited to serve as event ambassador at this year’s tournament in Sault Ste. Marie. To return to my hometown and see the fans so excited about the hockey, and see the players so excited about the experience … it brings back a lot of great memories.
Hockey Canada has done a tremendous job celebrating the 40th anniversary of the TELUS Cup and counting down the top alumni in tournament history, a list I am lucky enough to appear on. But while the focus leading up to the tournament has been on the past and the players that made the TELUS Cup what it is, the players on the ice at the Essar Centre this week are the future of the game, and fans should count themselves lucky to be able to be a part of history.
Who knows, the next Crosby, MacInnis, Yzerman, Francis or Roy could be right before our very eyes.
Follow Marty on Twitter: @MTurco35.