Connor Ingram is the talk Imperial, Sask. as he gets ready to represent the province at the IIHF World Junior Championship playing goalie for Team Canada.
For Brent and Joni Ingram, who live in the small town of approximately 350 people, a tradition is about to change. Usually, Connor’s parents have their own rituals when they watch their son play net, separately.
“Whether it’s a Western Hockey League (WHL) game or it’s the World Juniors, this is my favourite spot to watch,” Brent said sitting his upstairs couch in front of the TV.
“When the breakaways come I usually hear mom downstairs.”
“I’m usually on the edge. Sometimes I got my hands in my hair,” Joni said while on the downstairs couch.
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This holiday season, it will be a little different as they will be watching their son play an the international stage, which could be a little more nerve-wracking for mom.
“When kids are little and they’re playing hockey at the rink over the Christmas holidays and they’re pretending they’re the World Juniors and then your son gets the chance to be at the camp and when you hear that news … it’s surreal,” Brent said.
“When he was younger, he would try out for teams for Saskatchewan and then he never could quite make those teams so the first time you’re playing in a major tournament and you get to wear the Maple Leaf, that’s got to be an awesome feeling.”
The 19-year-old goalie, who’s in his third WHL season with the Kamloops Blazers, is the only player from Saskatchewan on Team Canada’s roster for the tournament.
At the Imperial rink this week, where Connor played his minor hockey, he’s now an idol to kids.
“We were all excited that night, everybody was on Facebook and everything the night they were picking out the teams,” Jensen Kelly said a young hockey player.
“From a small town, it just means that if you have a dream you can get wherever you want to go,” Kayden Freeman said at the rink.
Additionally, people in the town will be watching not one, but two of their own. Kris Knoblauch, who also hails from Imperial, is an assistant coach for Team Canada.
“One of the things I think we feel in Imperial is we’re just so excited that both of these guys, Connor and Kris, are there,” Brent said.
“I mean, it’s probably not uncommon to have two people from the same spot at the world juniors but to have a town our size and have them both there in the same year is really exciting for us.”
The puck officially drops for the IIHF World Junior Championship on Boxing Day. Canada will face Russia in its opening game in Toronto at 8 p.m. ET.