Alberta players welcomed home after win at world junior hockey tournament

robin kuniski/for metro calgary


Ruan Jonker, 8, gets an autograph from gold-medal winning Team Canada and Calgary Hitmen captain Karl Alzner at the Calgary International Airport yesterday. Seven members from the world junior team, including four players and three members of support staff, landed in Cowtown yesterday.

"I was fortunate enough to be on the ice when the overtime goal was scored. Everything went in slow motion. It was definitely the experience of a lifetime."

Family, friends and a few fans greeted Alberta-based members of Team Canada with cheers at the Calgary International airport yesterday.

“It’s really exciting,” said forward Zach Boychuk. “There’s so much support from my family. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them.”

Boychuk’s sisters, aunt, uncle, cousins and 18-year-old girlfriend Kylie Epp waited anxiously yesterday for him to arrive home from the IIHF World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic.

Epp couldn’t wait to congratulate him in person for the first time since Saturday’s 3-2 overtime gold medal victory over Sweden.

“It’s unreal,” Epp said. “For the past two years this has been one of my dreams too. The best part was seeing him smile on TV. I’m really proud of him.”

Friends of team chef Andrew Gass of Calgary also felt proud of his contribution to the victory. They rushed to greet him with hugs and cheers when he arrived.

“It’s just amazing for him,” said Gass’ friend of 10 years, Jason Hardy. “He’s like a brother to us. And he’s the guy who’s fuelling Team Canada. If it wasn’t for him, who knows? They might have got silver.”

Hockey fan Mina Fadol couldn’t believe her luck when she found out her sister’s flight was coming in around the same time as Team Canada’s. “It was one of the most intense games,” said 21-year-old Fadol. “As corny as it sounds, I think we had the most heart.”

Team captain Karl Alzner agreed. “We’ve been together for a long time,” Alzner said. “We’ve been through the highs and lows together. This is an unbelievable group of kids.”

“It seemed like everybody was best friends.”

This is the fourth straight win for Team Canada at the World Juniors, and four players have ties to Alberta. Alzner is from Burnaby, B.C., but plays for the Calgary Hitmen. Boychuk is from Airdrie, forward Brandon Sutter hails from Red Deer and Thomas Hickey is a Calgarian.

“I was fortunate enough to be on the ice when the overtime goal was scored. Everything went in slow motion,” Hickey said. “It was definitely the experience of a lifetime.”

Latest From ...