I entered the bus as butterflies flew through my stomach, “Welcome to Detroit” was blasting through my ears as my teammates and I sang along. The bus began to roll down the icey roads of Quebec City, we passed the ice sculptures, saw the bundled up Canadians, and felt the frigid air. I began talking to my teammate, “I’m so excited,” I exclaimed.
He responded with an “I know I can’t believe we’re finally here.”
“I feel like just yesterday we were at our first practice.”
“I wonder how many fans will be there?” my teammate inquired.
I shrugged my shoulders as Eminem's voice faded out, we pulled into the drop off circle of the rink and saw the raucous fans strolling into the Centre Vidéotron. I walked into the player entrance with my team and heard the thousands of fans cheering for the game before ours. That's when I realized all those fans would be there, screaming, clapping, and cheering for us. As I entered the locker room, the smell was overwhelming. As I sat my bag down in my usual spot, my palms began to sweat and my nerves began to get the better of me.
“You ready Ryan?” my teammate questioned.
I gathered myself and responded with confidence, “You know it, big game day.”
“You wanna go play pass?”
“Sure” he answered.
I reached into my bag and found my orange stickhandling ball under my beaten down shin pad. We played for a while and then I noticed the holes in the tape on the blade of my stick. I strolled out into the hallway, put my black beat headphones on, and tuned everyone out. I focused on wrapping my stick perfectly with the black tape I was holding. Once I finished cutting the last piece of tape and readying my stick for what was about to be the biggest moment of my life, my coach called us into the locker room for a pre-game talk. He went through the power play units, one by one and reviewed everything we had worked on all year. As the meeting finished, I changed out of my blue dress shirt, maroon tie, and khaki pants and into my custom under armour warmups. Tina, our team trainer yelled, “Jog it out boys!” We knew what that meant as we had been doing it for the last ten days. As we finished up our jog, we headed back to Tina for warmups. While we stretched out I could not stop thinking about the game, soon my nerves turned to excitement and I knew I was ready to play. We walked back to the locker room and looked down the long hallway eying our opponents, the Czechs. I slowly turned into the locker room and looked at the big red lights of the clock. There were thirty minutes left until the game would begin. I sat down, opened my red Belle Tire bag and began to put on my gear, piece by piece. As I laced up my skates and talked to my teammates, my excitement grew. Then pulling on my jersey, I glanced over at the clock and saw that there were only five minutes left until game time. I was ready! The time passed quickly, as one of my teammates stood up and gave a priceless and hilarious speech to get all of our nerves out. We laughed and the buzzer sounded. And, just like that I was walking down the tunnel, listening to the cheering fans.
I leapt onto the ice and looked up at the 13,000 fans, and was amazed by the atmosphere. Finally I was here, the moment I had been preparing for all year, The crowd was so loud that I could barely hear my teammate next to me. “It’s so loud in here!” I yelled to my teammate who was less than five feet away from me.
“I know, there are so many people!” He shouted back as we both gazed into the crowd.
We finished up warm ups and skated to the bench as our coach moved towards us. He said the starting lineup, and I went out to start the game, the puck dropped.
The play was quick and steady. We were evenly matched and finished the first period in a tie of 0-0. To our surprise, the Czechs came on strong to start the second period, putting us down 2-0 headed into the final intermission. We needed to regroup. We entered the locker room down, and were worried as we only had fifteen minutes to make a comeback. Our coach gave us an inspiring speech, but it did not seem like enough. As we readied for the third and final period, we encouraged one another and knew we could make a comeback. We came out and determined to get back in the game. With two minutes left in the game the score was 2-2. We had all the momentum and needed to keep focus and play our game. We lined up in their zone for what would likely be one of the last plays of the game. The faceoff was won back to me and I shot the puck, there was a scramble in front of the net… and my teammate poked it in! We went crazy jumping on each other and screaming. The score was 3-2 and we had taken the lead with just over a minute left. All we had to do was keep it out of our net for the final minute and we would be crowned world champions. The buzzer sounded. Black and blue gloves flew in the air, some fans cheered, some fans booed, but it didn’t matter, we had finally done it, the moment we had been working for since the first skate of the season. We skated around the ice lifting the big silver trophy, celebrating for an hour. As I left the ice, my mind wandered to the very first time I entered the red and white Belle Tire locker room, and met my teammates at the beginning of the season, and I thought to myself what a great year it had been.