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Saskatoon Blades coach returns with World Juniors gold: ‘It’s an unbelievable experience’

Mitch Love fresh off a gold-medal performance at the World Junior championships
WATCH ABOVE: Blades head coach returns following gold medal at World Juniors.

The Saskatoon Blades welcomed back their head coach on Tuesday, along with his gold medal, from the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Mitch Love, 35, was selected back in May 2019 to help lead Canada’s team as an assistant coach.

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In a come-from-behind victory, Canada defeated Russia 4-3 in the final at Ostravar Arena in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on Jan. 5.

“It hasn’t really officially set in quite yet. It’s an unbelievable experience, for sure,” Love said.

Team Canada arrives home to heroes welcome after gold medal win at world juniors
Team Canada arrives home to heroes welcome after gold medal win at world juniors

Love, who hails from Quesnel, B.C., said one of the things that made winning gold extra special was having his family in the stands.

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“It’s a dream… I had my family there, too,” Love said.

“To see the tears running down my dad’s face… was something really special.”

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Love said Team Canada came together and showed perseverance after it was held off the scoresheet in the first game at the tournament, also against the Russians.

“The Russian loss, 6-0, [on Dec. 28, 2019] which was the worst in Canadian hockey history at that event. Our group just stuck together. That’s really at the end of the day a credit to [head coach] Dale Hunter. He’s an even-keeled individual and there really was no sense of panic in our group,” Love said.

“You’re never out of it. I think it teaches not just Hockey Canada, but future events, players at any level that you’re never out of something if you believe in it.”

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This was the 18th gold for Canada and the first on European ice since 2008.

“I think the first game when you came out and we played the United States on [Dec. 26, 2019], there was about 4,000 Canadians there. That’s remarkable,” Love said.
Canada beats Russia for World Junior hockey gold
Canada beats Russia for World Junior hockey gold

“When you’re sitting at home watching it on TV, you don’t really quite know the magnitude of everything that’s going on until you get over there and you’re like seeing these people that have no bearing on those kids lives other than going there to support them and spend their own money on that.

“They were home games, essentially. That building sat 8,500, and more than half of that — and even our opponents, depending on what country we were playing — they were cheering for us, too.

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“It was awesome. It really uplifted our guys throughout the event.”

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The IIHF World Junior Championship returns to Canadian ice next year when Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta., host the tournament. Love said he intends to throw his hat in to coach on home soil.

The Western Hockey League (WHL) head coach landed in Saskatoon on Monday night and returned to SaskTel Centre looking to catch up with the Blades.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the boys, so it was good. I was excited to come back to the rink today,” Love said.

The Blades also had defenceman Radek Kucerik playing for Team Czech Republic in the 2020 tournament.