Aidan Dudas was worried that an upper-body injury was going to hold him back from playing with Team Canada’s eventual gold medal-winning team at the World Junior Hockey Championship.
“When I first injured it (November 29 in Kitchener) I was a little upset, didn’t know what the time frame would be or how bad it would be. Looking back at it I could only control what I can control, it healed up pretty good and I was happy with it,” said the Owen Sound Attack captain.
Dudas has previous experience with Hockey Canada, but it admitted there was more pressure than before.
“This is the biggest tournament for Canada and the whole world. Social media is a big impact on today, it was huge from that standpoint and the fans as well.”
Over the tournament, coaches ask players to play in a different role than their junior clubs. Dudas said his expectations from the coaches was more on the defensive side of the game.
“It was more of a defensive type of player and hard on the pk and shut down their top players. It was a little bit of a different role than I play here. you have to change roles to whatever the coaches see fit.”
The Attack’s Head Coach, Alan Letang had a role with Team Canada as well. He was with the team in the Czech Republic as a pre-scout coach.
“It was a great experience, Hockey Canada does everything top-notch. Day-to-day basis, it was great being apart of the coaching staff. We were together quite a bit talking things out and trying to take care of all the little details. Hockey Canada has that motto of being the most prepared team in the tournament,” said Letang.
Dale and Mark Hunter of the London Knights were two members on the coaching staff. Mark as GM and Dale as Head Coach. So what does Letang take away from two of the most respected guys in junior hockey?
“Everything. You’re sitting around and discussing the way your team wants to play and how you’re holding some of the best players in Canada accountable. The way we run practice and all the details, how we broke down the other teams. It was a staff effort, we discussed every situation and every move we made,” said Letang.
As the tournament went on, Team Canada only had one loss between group play and the medal rounds, a 6-0 loss to Russia.
“I think if you talk to anyone who has won a Championship or won something like that, at some point you have to face adversity and then you know the makeup of your team.. At some point it was good for our group to face that adversity and be humbled,” said Letang.
Letang admits with the fans support, every game felt like a home game.
“It was incredible to have, I think there was almost 3 thousand fans there. You play the Czechs, Slovakia and Russia, it was a sea of red. It was a little different being over in Europe, you don’t get all the hype or TSN shows,” said the Attack’s Head Coach.
In the Gold Medal game against the Russians in the dying minutes of their 4-3 win, Dudas had Canadian fans on edge when his backhanded shot went over the glass and hit the TSN camera on the PK.
“I was kinda scared going out in the last 2 minutes, up one and had to get the (penalty) kill. I had the puck on my backhand, not a lot of accuracies so I fired it down the ice and hit the camera. I thought it was a penalty but the IHHF had rules against that and they worked in my favour,” said Dudas.
Once the team arrived back in Canada, Dudas and other members of the winning team had the opportunity to play outdoor hockey with the Nelk Boys, YouTube stars who have over 3 million subscribers.
“One of the guys who was there, (Ottawa 67’s defenceman) Kevin Bahl, his friend had connections with someone who works with the Nelk Boys. They are always looking for new stuff to shoot on their channel, they got in a group chat with some of the Ontario guys and asked if they wanted to shoot a video,” said Dudas.
Afterwards, some of the guys were recognized at a Toronto Maple Leafs home game at Scotiabank Arena, which Dudas said was a special memory to him.
“That was probably the coolest experience I’ve been apart of other than winning gold. Seeing the crowd cheer when you get your name called and dropping the puck in front of (John) Tavares and (Mark) Scheifele was pretty cool. Walking by the Leafs and their congratulating you, it was a cool experience.”
For Alan Letang, who has had great success in his hockey career, he said winning gold is right up there for hockey memories.
“I had an opportunity to be apart of Dallas when they won the Stanley Cup. I’ve won a Spengler Cup with Hockey Canada and went as a coach. All in the end, to go out on the ice with the kids and staff you’ve spent a month with, things ran smooth for us, it was really smooth for us,” said Letang.