Olympiques forward gets hero’s welcome after World Junior win
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TIM WIECLAWSKI / METRO OTTAWA
Claude Giroux’s gold medal at the World Junior Hockey Championships actually comes with one regret.
Giroux, the Gatineau Olympiques forward who helped Team Canada to a fourth-straight title in the Czech Republic this weekend, is sorry he won’t be eligible to play again when the junior tournament comes to Ottawa in 2009.
“It would be so nice to be able to play next year and win at home, but being in Czech (Republic) was a really great experience,” said Giroux, who will age out before next year’s tourney.
With his family in attendance, Giroux of Ottawa scored Canada’s second goal in the team’s 3-2 victory in Saturday’s gold medal game against Sweden. Last night, he returned home to a hero’s welcome at Ottawa’s airport.
“When you look at the last game, he really brought up his game, he played well during the week but he upped it in the last game,“ said Charles Henry, general manager of the Olympiques.
Giroux said the team has been celebrating so much since the win, he’s barely had three hours’ sleep. And he likely won’t get much more at home.
“I’m sure my friends have something planned for tonight,” he said, pointing to a group of supporters who greeted him at the airport.
Jeremy Lamontagne grew up playing with Giroux. “We always knew he had the talent … it was such a great feeling to watch him win the gold,” he said.
Canada’s fourth consecutive victory at the WJHC has spurred strong demand for tickets to the Ottawa event, a full year before it opens.
“In the week leading up to the semifinals and the finals, there’s no question we had a huge bump in numbers,” said Phil Legault, with the Ottawa Senators. “That’s what lifted us to the sold-out level for gold and for silver ticket packages.”
The Ottawa tourney has already sold 320,000 — or about 80 per cent — of tickets and organizers hope to break the tournament attendance record set in Vancouver in 2006 with 400,000 spectators.
The IIHF will release the official schedule in March, and a mascot is also expected to be unveiled.
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