U.S.-Canada rivalry reaches new heights outdoors
By Jim Christopher
Hockey was a game born in the elements and Friday afternoon, the game went back outside to return to those roots. New Era Field in Buffalo transformed into a scene reminiscent of any homemade backyard rink across the country that players grow up on.
The ending itself was of storybook proportions as well, with the United States coming back from a two-goal deficit in the third period to eventually beat Canada in a shootout, 4-3 in the first ever outdoor game in the history of the IIHF World Junior Championship.
Right before puck drop at the stadium, snow flurries picked up, painting a picturesque portrait. It was something that players from both teams had to stop and take in.
“It was incredible. None of us have been in something quite like that,” U.S. captain Joey Anderson said. “It was a ton of fun. It's something we won’t see again and it was a real neat experience for all of us to go through. We didn’t really know what to expect and that was probably as good as it was going to be.”
The flurries nearly prevented the United States from arriving to the stadium on time due to their bus getting caught up in some of that snow. Thanks to a little help from fans outside tailgating, the team had no problem getting past it.
“The USA fans that helped our bus get unstuck coming into the game a lot of the credit goes to them,” United States forward Kieffer Bellows said. “We showed up on time because of that. Great people here in Buffalo.”
With an announced attendance of 44,592, both countries of Canada and the United States were represented well in the stands despite the blustery conditions. The impact of the crowd was felt by the players on the ice.
“It was cool for sure. It’s once in a lifetime. It was kind of special to see Canadians and even the Americans come cheer you on,” Team Canada forward Victor Mete said. “You could hear the fans more than you could in a regular game.”
As both teams took the ice for warmups, the stadium was overcast and temperatures stood at a brisk 17 degrees. That temperature remained constant throughout while the snow seemed to increase as the game wore on.
The ice crew worked tirelessly throughout the game, removing larger than normal amounts of snow at each stoppage to prevent it from building up on the ice. The elements ultimately won this round as the snow had a clear impact on the game.
“It just made another element of fun to it a lot of us haven’t seen stuff like that since we were little kids out in the backyard playing on the ponds,” Anderson said. “The biggest thing was moving pucks. A lot of pucks were sticking in the snow.”
Mounds of snow began to pile up on the heads of fans in attendance witnessing the history-making event. Some fans even went to the extent to taking off their shirts in an effort to try to get the players motivated.
“It made better with the snow coming down and the fans excited,” American forward Brady Tkachuk said. “You could definitely feel it.”