by Briana Shymanski
The World Junior Championships are a Christmas tradition for many Canadians. For the Regina Pats, sending their top players to the tournament every year has become a tradition within a tradition. Since the tournament officially began in 1977, the team has sent 20 players to represent Team Canada, which is more than any other junior team in Canada.
Unofficially, the number is 23. Former Pats Ed Staniowski and Jim Minor represented Canada at the WJC in 1975 before the tournament was made official. Carter Ashton was traded from the Pats to the Tri City Americans 15 days before the 2011 tournament, where Canada won silver.
It may come as a surprise to fans that the Pats hold such a prestigious place in international hockey. The team’s regular season play in the Western Hockey League has been less than desirable in the past few years. But Darrell Davis, co-author of “Junior Hockey’s Royal Franchise: The Regina Pats,” isn’t surprised.
“They’re the oldest franchise in Canada. The Pats tradition holds true to their ability to find and attract good players from all across the country. It obviously lends itself to producing players who are capable of playing in the World Junior Championships,” he said.
Recent WJC and Pats alumni include Los Angeles Kings draft pick Colton Teubert, Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding, and NHL free agent Kyle Calder. Teubert won gold with Canada in 2009 and silver in 2010. Harding brought home gold in 2004, and Calder helped Team Canada to silver in 1999.
But the name that pops up in almost every conversation about the Regina Pats and the WJC is Jordan Eberle. When asked for a standout Pat on the world junior stage, Davis did not hesitate to mention the young star.
"Jordan Eberle grew up four (or) five houses down the street from me, so it’s tough for me to look any further than that when you think of the things he accomplished as a player. (He scored) one of the most memorable goals in Canadian hockey history. He has to be the guy you think of the most.”
The goal Davis refers to is the one Eberle scored against the U.S.A in the 2010 WJC final, tying the score 5 – 5 with 1:42 left in the game. The Americans would eventually score in overtime to take the gold medal, but Eberle was named tournament MVP and the tournament’s best forward. The goal also made him Canada’s all time leading goal scorer in the WJC.
The Pats’ director of scouting, Todd Ripplinger, is also quick to praise Eberle, calling him “one of the best guys to ever go through that tournament,” but he cites others too, like Calder, Harding, and Teubert.
Both Davis and Ripplinger credit this history for creating Regina’s standing as a powerhouse when it comes to producing high level players. It has also created a growing sense of pride for the players, new and old, and for the club itself. It’s a sense that Davis hopes can translate into a push up from the league basement towards a league championship.
“People are waiting for the Pats to return to their glory,” he said. “They’re an amazing franchise off the ice. Now, it’s time for them to be a great franchise on the ice.”
Photo by Briana Shymanski