Fans do their part to elevate U.S.-Canada rivalry in World Juniors outdoor game
By Alec Gearty
Fans from far and near flocked to New Era Field on Friday to witness the first outdoor game that the IIHF World Junior Championship has ever hosted. The meeting between the United States and Canada was destined to be a classic matchup.
Despite the heavy snowfall, those in the record-setting crowd of 44,592 made the most of a cold night. Canada supporters rallied the crowd wearing only goggles, a helmet and pants. The fans had a mission and that was to do their part in helping the game be one that is remembered.
One of the most iconic images from the 2008 NHL Winter Classic was when Courtney Kelly, a Buffalo Sabres fan, held up a piece of cardboard baring a simple message. The sign that read, “Look Mom, No Roof!” became a symbolic image for each outdoor game the NHL has held since then.
When the outdoor game between the two countries was made official, Kelly knew it was time to bring the sign out of retirement. Kelly has kept it in her basement since the Penguins upended the Sabres in the inaugural Winter Classic.
As the snow fell down on Friday afternoon, there was no trouble in finding the sign with the same bold, blue letters and black exclamation point.
“It’s the exact same one,” Sean Kelly interjected. “She made it, it was her idea.”
Nearly a decade has passed since Kelly debuted her sign. There is a bit of wear and tear, as to be expected, but that didn’t stop her from proudly displaying it from her lower-level seat throughout the United States 4-3 shootout win over Canada.
As for the game, the Kellys felt their experience of the World Juniors outside matched what they felt in 2008.
“It’s awesome because it’s snowing again,” Sean said. “It feels almost exactly the same but a little colder. I like the atmosphere a lot better because it’s the USA versus Canada dynamic. I think it’s amazing.”
“We go to the World Juniors games a bit more anyway,” Courtney said. “We like the World Juniors. We love this level of hockey.”
Kelly wasn’t the only fan in attendance to get a message across with a marker. Cole Creaney, who made the two and a half hour trip from Whitby, Ont. to be a part of the crowd, was a hit during the pregame tailgate.
The parking lot outside of the stadium had an eerie feel to it. There was no evidence of a typical Buffalo Bills tailgate. Instead, Creaney stood atop a snow mound with a sign held high whilst others sang “O, Canada.”
“This Is Our House,” Creaney’s sign read, with Canadian maple leaves placed on each side of the phrase. He said that it took about three to four hours to create, but in the end, his creativity paid dividends.
Each and every Canadian that caught a glimpse of the sign wished to take a photo with Creaney.
While one end of this parking lot contained Canadian supporters, the other side was filled with mostly Americans. If one dared to walk between them, they were in for a bit of friendly banter.
“We did get a big crowd up here,” Creaney said. “Some guy ran by with an American Flag on a hockey stick.”
The visit to New Era Field was a first for Creaney. He made the trip with his brother and parents. Creaney wasted no time in seizing tickets for the event when it was made official.
“I saw it was an outdoor game for Canada and the U.S. so me and my brother Dylan chipped in to get tickets for the parents,” he said.
When a fan brings a sign to a game, it’s to capture the attention of both hometown and opposing fans. The Kellys and Creaney did their parts as fans to display their fandom while bringing a piece of hockey nostalgia back outdoors for a historic night that won’t soon be forgotten.