HELSINKI—Two players from opposite ends of the spectrum in life and
hockey became forever linked yesterday by one of the most bizarre goals
ever scored at the world junior championship — a heart-breaker for Canadians
that handed the United States a 4-3 victory in the final.
Marc-Andr? Fleury, who came into the tournament as the undisputed best
young goalie in the world, a 19-year-old future NHL star with big-league
credentials and a bank account to match, was the unexpected goat.
American Patrick O'Sullivan, who got credit for the game-winning goal,
was his equally unlikely foil. He began the championship as a second-line
centre, months removed from a controversial junior season with the Mississauga
IceDogs in which he was sent home for allegedly stealing a hockey stick
from a store. Then, just before the National Hockey League draft last June,
the story surfaced that O'Sullivan and his mother had suffered years of
physical and mental abuse at the hands of Patrick's father.
John O'Sullivan was a journeyman minor leaguer who turned into the worst
kind of hockey parent.
The two players' pasts and futures collided yesterday with memorable
Heavily favoured Canada had a 3-1 lead after two periods and seemed
poised to win the country's first junior gold medal in seven years. But
the U.S. tied the game in the third, with O'Sullivan, 18, getting one of
Then, with just over five minutes to play and with the puck drifting
toward Fleury in the Canadian net, O'Sullivan used his blazing speed to
get around Canadian defenceman Brent Seabrook. Fleury came out of the net
to play the puck and shot it up ice, where it hit teammate Braydon Coburn
in the shoulder and went into the net before the goalie could dive back
to get it.
Both players came out to meet the media simultaneously after the game,
O'Sullivan sporting a huge smile and wearing his gold medal, Fleury with
tears in his eyes.
"I could have saved some, but I didn't," said Fleury, who signed a three-year
$3.72 million (U.S.) contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins in October.
"I scored in my own net today, so that doesn't help. Some lucky. First
(goal in the third period), hits my shoulder, in the net. Second one, hits
my stick, bounces over my head, into the net. Third one, chip it off my
`D' (defenceman) and it goes into the net. It's not goals you see often,
but if you want to win, you've got to make some stops, too."
And you have to have someone who delivers an enormous performance, and
O'Sullivan did just that.
O'Sullivan concedes his heroics were all the more satisfying considering
what he has endured. From the three-ring circus that was the IceDogs under
former owner and coach Don Cherry to a personal life that included beatings
from his father after almost every game, O'Sullivan has survived. Even
though he has spent the last month with the U.S. junior team, he still
leads the Ontario Hockey League in goals and the scars are beginning to
`I think a lot of people are going to be happy for me and that makes
me feel good.'
U.S. player Patrick O'Sullivan
In fact, O'Sullivan's historic performance came two years to the day
after he took control of his life and decided he would never talk to his
"I've had some tough times, no doubt about that," O'Sullivan said. "But
I think that stuff is in the past and I'm just happy to be playing hockey,
and obviously winning this tournament is the highlight of my career so
O'Sullivan's father, a native of Toronto, played nine seasons in the
minors and met the former Cathie Ann Martin in Winston-Salem, N.C. Patrick
was born just as John's hockey career was finishing and as soon as his
son took an interest in hockey, John began a zealous pursuit of vicarious
glory that was out of control by the time Patrick was in his early teens.
The family briefly moved to Toronto so Patrick could play for the prestigious
Toronto Red Wings organization and by the time he was 13, he was playing
Junior B hockey in Strathroy.
Everything came to a head two years ago yesterday. The night before,
John pulled his son off the IceDogs' bus following a game in Ottawa, with
the intention of taking him to his home in Michigan. When Patrick tried
to leave the van during a stop in Toronto, John began kicking and punching.
When Patrick fought back, John knocked him to the ground.
Patrick filed charges that day and John ended up behind bars for almost
His mother finalized divorce proceedings in April and a Canadian restraining
order prohibits John from coming within one kilometre of Patrick.
O'Sullivan was drafted 56th overall by the Minnesota Wild, 55 spots
after Fleury. The Wild didn't have a name to sew on his sweater because
they had no intention of taking him in the first round and thought he'd
be gone by their pick in the second.
"I had kind of disregarded him until we interviewed him in Toronto,"
said Wild assistant general manager Tom Thompson. "I told him, `Wherever
you play this year, I want you to have fun.' He still has a long way to
go, but it's getting better."
Now that the tournament is over, Fleury will go back to Pittsburgh,
then at some point soon he'll likely be returned to the Cape Breton Eagles
of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
O'Sullivan will be back in the IceDogs' lineup Friday night for their
home date against the Belleville Bulls.
"Probably good and bad, I guess," O'Sullivan said when asked what kind
of reception he expects. "Obviously the Canadian fans want the Canadian
team to win, but I think a lot of people are going to be happy for me and
that makes me feel good inside."