For many hockey fans, the holidays aren’t just about spending time with family and opening up presents. It’s also a time for gathering together on the couch in front of the television and cheering on Team Canada in the annual World Juniors tournament as the country goes for another gold medal.
With the roster now confirmed and gearing up for a tournament that is played just outside its borders in Buffalo, New York, the team features three OMHA grads: forwards Jonah Gadjovich (Whitby Wildcats) and Robert Thomas (York-Simcoe Express) and defenceman Conor Timmins (Southern Tier Admirals).
They are a part of a Team Canada roster hungry for gold after last year’s heartbreaking shootout loss, earning a silver medal to the rival United States.
The World Juniors tournament has always held a special place in Gadjovich’s heart. He watched the tournament at all hours of the night growing up.
“If it was overseas, I remember staying up with friends until three or four in the morning to watch a game,” said the Owen Sound Attack forward. “I remember different highlights. There’s so many memories from this tournament, it brings the country together, it brings families together. To get an opportunity to play there is special.”
From Jonathan Toews’ shootout heroics to five straight gold medals, there have been many memorable moments etched in Canadian junior hockey history. It’s Eberle’s game-tying goal with five seconds left in the 2009 semi-finals against Russia that stands out as Gadjovich’s favourite.
“I just remember being on the edge of my seat and going crazy when the puck went in the net. That’ll be a memory that stays with me the rest of my life.”
From L to R: Conor Timmins, Jonah Gadjovich, Robert Thomas in their OMHA days
Gadjovich has never represented Canada internationally and is diving right into the deep end in the World Juniors. While he has some big event experience like playing in the OHL Super Series, it’s his years of watching the tournament that have helped prepare him for what’s to come.
“You definitely see the intensity and the will that those guys have to win. You see teams that have won and lost in the past. It’s basically seeing what types of role players and what spots need to be filled. For me, it’s just about going in and doing my thing and playing to the best of my ability.”
Gadjovich played with the Wildcats since his Novice year and was drafted in the second round by the Attack in 2014. Last year, the Vancouver Canucks announced his name in the second round of the NHL Draft. The 19-year-old has 15 goals and 11 assists in 21 games this season with Owen Sound.
Leading up to the selection camp, Gadjovich had spoken to his coaches and was told there was a good shot the he would be invited. He was focused on having a strong first half of the year and was rewarded with a call to attend.
It can be tough for teams to gel in such a short amount of time but Gadjovich isn’t worried about forming a brotherhood with his new teammates. He’s learned to adjust quickly over his experience playing minor hockey and seeing different players on his team each season.
Gadjovich knows he’s playing for a lot more than just himself and his teammates.
“Representing Canada, for me, is representing my family and representing my friends and everyone in this nation. Obviously, Canada has such a strong reputation in this sport and to be able to show our strengths on an international scale like this in probably one of the best tournaments in the world would be amazing.”
No matter the end result, Gadjovich knows this will be a great experience but he has one goal on his mind.
“I want to win the gold medal. Obviously, I’m going to do whatever it takes to achieve that.”
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