London ball

London Knights’ Brett Brochu: “It’s gone from the best day of my life to the worst”

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Brett Brochu intended to build on his first career start at the world juniors – and victory – in goal for Canada.

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Now the London Knights goalie is sitting in an Alberta hotel room waiting to get home. His dream tournament was cut short when the International Ice Hockey Federation ended the event on Wednesday after rising COVID-19 cases and a handful of games called off.

“It’s gone from the best day of my life to the worst,” said the 19-year-old from Tilbury. “Sometimes that is what happens in life and it’s crazy how things can change so quickly.”

Brochu knew there were big hurdles to overcome to get the tournament back on track. But he was taken aback when he and his Canadian comrades were taken to a meeting room to hear about an immediate halt to the proceedings.

“We were obviously quite upset,” he said. “I didn’t think it was an (option) to cancel the tournament. We were doing everything we could to be safe and do our part to get the vaccine. We did everything we could to play and thought we would be able to go all the way.

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“It’s extremely disappointing.

The Knights goaltender said he never felt unsafe in Edmonton and congratulated Hockey Canada on their preparations. But Finnish coach Antti Pennanen blasted organizers for mismanagement and felt that an NHL-style protocol – in which only the infected should be quarantined – should have been in place.

“I think Hockey Canada has done a great job doing what we can to have a good experience, but also to prevent the spread of COVID,” said Brochu. “Again, I was sitting here thinking there was no way anything was going to happen at our tournament. I think the IIHF kind of dropped the ball on this one and hopefully they can make up for it this summer.

“I hope Hockey Canada can help us and organize something for us. I know everyone in this tournament really wanted to play.

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It will still be difficult. The Memorial Cup is slated for June 4-13 and the NHL Draft is July 7-8, followed by rookie camps and vital weeks of training.

It would be a good idea to send young footballers to the February Olympics – according to the football formula – but the threat of having to spend extra days and weeks in Beijing after testing positive makes him a non-starter.

Brochu had to spend a few weeks in compulsory isolation in Red Deer last year during the World Junior Trials. He didn’t make the team at that point, which kindled a fire in him to come back strong and gain some playing time this time around.

“I had a lot of fun,” he said. “I think the hardest part is getting out of here without even having the chance to play for a gold medal. All of the hard work by our staff and everyone over the past 21 days has been worth it. It was therefore difficult to learn that we no longer had the chance to represent our country. “

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Brochu made 20 saves in Tuesday’s 11-2 win over Austria. He will never forget that first international test, but wanted to see where it could lead.

“I took every practice very seriously and if I was going to get the chance it wasn’t because I was nominated for a starter or backup role,” he said. “I knew it would be pretty tough to win some ice time, but with the way I was playing the last bit, I would earn my way to the net for more games.

“(The clean battle with Dylan Garand and Sebastian Cossa) was really close. I thought the workouts were going extremely well and that’s how it ended.

“Now we are going back to London. “

Brochu said he must wait to see if he will be available to play in the next Knights’ competition, currently scheduled for New Years Day in Erie. The OHL has been forced to postpone games almost daily lately, including shutting down Windsor, Kitchener and Owen Sound on Thursday.

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has also decided to take a two-week break.

Add it all up to a truly disappointing week for junior hockey.

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