A couple of Durham hockey players won’t be home for Christmas this year but they have got a good reason.
They’ll be going for gold with the Canadian world junior team in Edmonton.
While this year has given us few reasons to cheer, Connor McMichael and Cole Perfetti’s quest for victory should.
The year 2020 started off golden for McMichael as he helped Canada capture its 18th world junior championship.
Now the Ajax native is back and looking to take on more of a leadership role going into his second tournament.
“It’s a huge honour growing up just watching the world juniors every Christmas with your family. It’s awesome, whether it’s your first time, second time,” said the forward.
One of the players he’ll be taking under his wing this tournament is Whitby’s Perfetti.
After not being selected last tournament, making this year’s team was a goal for the Winnipeg Jets prospect and something the forward has been dreaming about since he was four years old.
“The big goal really is just winning a gold medal; at the end of the day that’s what it is all about and being a part of that in any way I can,” said Perfetti.
While Perfetti and McMichael would love to be spending more time on the ice gelling with teammates,
since arriving in Alberta, they’ve spent many days isolating in their hotel rooms.
“At the end of the day it was a lot of sitting around and waiting for the days to go by,” said Perfetti.
“The coaching staff has been good with setting up Zoom calls and watching our intrasquad games and doing some video keeping us busy,” said McMichael.
Both the Saginaw Spirit’s Perfetti and the London Knights’ McMichael tore up a shortened Ontario Hockey League campaign last season, finishing second and third, respectively, in points with over 100.
While they’ve always competed against each other, there’s a chance they could be linemates in this tournament.
“He’s just a super skilled, really intelligent player. I know when he has the puck on his stick you gotta get open for him ’cause he’ll be able to find you in those holes,” said McMichael.
“You see his goal-scoring ability and playmaking — I think he’s one of the best goal scorers in junior hockey.”
Despite being in a bubble, the players know expectations are high.
“Even though there’s not going to be fans in the stands, feeling the support that way, there’s going to be 20 to 25 million people watching on TV, so the pressure’s still there but I think that’s what all these players like to play in — I know I do,” Perfetti said.
Canada will play a pair of pre-competition games before dropping the puck on the tournament Boxing Day.