Loss at hockey worlds still stings for Maple Leafs' Marner
22 ìàÿ 2017 ãîäà. MIKE ZEISBERGER, POSTMEDIA NETWORK
TORONTO — Wearing a white T-shirt, his Blue Jays baseball cap perched
backwards on his head, a fatigued Mitch Marner looked like a
15-year-old teen as he walked through the arrival gate at Toronto’s
Pearson Airport on Monday evening.
Don’t let appearances fool you though. To the naked eye, he might still
look like a boy. But he plays like a man, as his teammates and
opponents at the recently completed world hockey championship can
Just 24 hours earlier, the young Maple Leafs forward and his Canada
teammates suffered a gut wrenching 2-1 loss to Sweden in a shootout, a
ridiculous format when it comes to deciding the gold medal winner at
the world championship. Now, after an eight-plus hour flight home from
Germany, the pain still resided in his gut. And rightly so.
“It just sucked how it ended,” Marner told Postmedia, the disappointment still etched on his face.
“But the (event) was a pretty special experience. It was great to meet all those guys. We came together pretty quickly.”
The two-plus week tournament was a whirlwind ride for Marner. He turned
20 on May 5, the first day of the event. He lost part of a chicklet
during one of the games, leaving a gap between his teeth. And he was
Canada’s final hope in the shootout Sunday, his attempt subsequently
thwarted by Henrik Lundqvist.
Think about the pressure. Standing at centre ice, knowing you are your
country’s last chance. And, of course, at that very moment, the eyes of
two nations are on you.
Twelve months ago, this kid was winning a Memorial Cup with the London
Knights. All the while, questions loomed over him: Would he be a Knight
or a Toronto Maple Leaf in 2016-17?
We know the answer now: he’s one of the Leafs top forwards and a world
championship silver medallist for Canada. What a difference a year
Asked about being in the global spotlight as he waited to take his
shootout attempt, Marner replied: ‘It’s a pretty big rush. Obviously
you know what you have to do to keep it going. You try to see
something, you try to go for it, things happen.
“It’s been an (eventful) year. Obviously, I didn’t know what was going
to happen between Toronto and London. And then getting the opportunity
to make the team. And then obviously playoffs and world championships,
it’s been a pretty big thrill. Now it’s nice that I have no camps that
I have to go to. I can relax and concentrate on getting my body ready
for this season and really dial it in.”
In the aftermath of Sweden’s dramatic victory, Marner congratulated
Leafs teammate William Nylander, a member of the victorious Tre
Kroners, in the handshake line. This in itself was a snapshot of the
promising times that potentially lie ahead for the Maple Leafs. On this
world stage, Nylander was voted tournament MVP while Marner was named
one of Canada’s three top players.
Marner is 20. He looks 15. He finished seventh in tournament scoring
with 12 points. Nylander is 21. He looks 18. He finished third in
tourney scoring with 15 points. In the process, they once again showed
through their play that, for the Leafs, the future very well may be now.
“It’s definitely pretty cool,” Marner said. (Nylander) had a great
tournament and really helped that team along. “It’s a special thing to
be part of. It’s a lot of fun. Hopefully next year we don’t have the
opportunity to go because we’ll still be playing (in the playoffs). But
it’s something you’ll never forget.”
Enough already. This isn’t soccer. Let the players determine the
outcome of a championship via a golden goal, not a penalty shot
It’s understandable for logistical reasons if organizers want to use
such a format leading up to the title game. But when it comes to a
one-game showdown to determine who’s best, let’s crown a team because
it won at hockey, not a practice drill.
Besides, it’s not like the teams have to catch a flight. It’s the final game. Treat it as such.
YOUNG GUNS 2.0
Remember the electrifying World Cup of Hockey performance turned in
eight months ago by the Young Guns — aka Team North America? It was a
glimpse into where the sport was headed, a new generation of speed and
skill. Now, for the past three weeks, we were once again reminded of
that thanks to a cache of talent 25 and under that included the likes
of Marner, Nylander, Nathan MacKinnon, Johnny Gaudreau, Jack Eichel,
Dylan Larkin, Gabriel Landeskog, Nik Ehlers, Sebastian Aho, Leon
Draisaitl, Mark Scheifele, Brayden Point, Travis Konecny, Colton
Parayko, Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Evgeny Kuznetsov, just
to name a few. Need we say more?
PS: If you needed any more proof why Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic
says MacKinnon is untouchable, this tournament served as such. The
kid’s skill set is ridiculous. He came within a fraction of going
end-to-end in overtime to score what would have been a goal for the
There have been more talented Canadian teams and certainly more
experienced ones so it says a lot about the job coach Jon Cooper did in
getting his young players to buy what he was selling. This Canadian
team did not lose a game in regulation. Nor did it make any excuses in
losing in a silly shootout. It says here that Cooper deserves a long
look for future Team Canada coaching opportunities, although much of
that depends on incumbent Mike Babcock … After watching the on- and
off-ice leadership displayed by Ryan O’Reilly, incoming Buffalo Sabres
GM Jason Botterill must be thrilled at having such a solid building
block … For those who consider this to be a secondary event in hockey:
the tears trickling down the cheeks Lundqvist at winning the title for
Sweden suggests otherwise.