Cam Reid and Grayson Downing are still smiling.
The two Warriors forwards have been back in West Kelowna for a week following their silver medal performance at the World Junior A Challenge in Summerside, PEI, but the experience hasn’t escaped their minds.
“It is something I will never forget, running onto the ice for the first time, it’s something I can’t really explain,” said Reid, who notched six points in five games for Team Canada West. “It was unbelievable, just putting on that jersey. I know I tried to take it in each time because you don’t get many opportunities to do that. At the end of the day it is just a jersey. But knowing you are representing your country and everybody back home, it’s a different feeling.”
For Reid and Downing, the journey began in early October, when the pair travelled to Okotoks, Alberta to participate in a tryout for Team West.
Reid said the evaluation camp was like any other in hockey and he had certain goals he wanted to accomplish.
“To make an impression and make the team,” explained Reid. “Afterwards I felt that I had done really well, myself and Grayson both. We had closing interviews with the coaches and they said to both of us we had a good chance of making the team.”
Both players were notified two weeks following the camp and were barely able to contain their excitement.
“I talked to the coach and I couldn’t stop smiling for the longest time,” recalled Downing. “I called my dad Joe and I joked around with him before I told him the news. He said to me ‘your mother isn’t here so call back later.” But he was really proud.”
For Reid, it was hard not to get overexcited, but he was quickly reminded not to lose his cool.
“My mom and my billet’s mom made sure it didn’t go to my head,” said Reid. “You just try your best not to let it take over.”
But for both, the invitation to join Team Canada West presented unique problems.
“The big thing was not getting too overconfident and making sure everything was organized for school,” said Downing. “The school was very supportive about it and so were the guys on the team.”
For Reid, his concern was with the Warriors.
“Just before we left, we were on a huge road trip, so there were mixed emotions because it (Team Canada) was always in the back of my mind but at the same time you are trying to help your team win,” Reid explained.
But both players were able to resolve their issues and once the pair had left for Summerside, playing for Canada from Nov. 1-8 was the only thing on their minds.
“From day one our goal was to get better everyday and I think we were able to do that,” said Downing about his experience with Team West. “It’s different because wearing that jersey we all had one goal and we had the same goal and thats why I think that we came together so quickly.”
While the team lost their opening game to Russia, Reid, Downing and the rest of the team bounced back quickly and the team didn’t falter again until the gold medal game against the United States, where they lost 2-1 to their arch rivals.
For Reid, the overall experience was one to cherish, but losing to the Americans was a tough pill to swallow.
“It is something I will never forget, running onto the ice for the first time, it’s something I can’t really explain. I was nervous in the first period but I took a couple of deep breaths and got back to hockey,” he said. “Losing was pretty crappy. The game could have gone anyway, it was frustrating knowing we were that close. I have some American teammates on the Warriors and when I got back I didn’t want to talk to them about it.”
For Warriors head coach Darren Yopyk, the opportunity Reid and Downing experienced should be one both players never forget.
“Like I have said before, I would have done anything to represent Team Canada,” said Yopyk. “Its a dream for a lot of people and they had the luxury of doing it once, hopefully they can do it again at some point.”
Downing couldn’t agree more.
“It was an honour, I remember every day there.”