By Gord Montgomery
Spruce Grove Examiner
Dylan Richard may have come back with a medal around his neck after taking on the world while Parker McKay may have only had thoughts of how close he came to such a trinket, but in the end, both say they were thrilled with the experiences they had in two recent championship sporting events.
Richard and McKay are teammates on the Spruce Grove Saints and both had the opportunity to represent Canada in major tournaments recently. Richard earned silver in the World Jr. A Hockey Challenge and McKay ended up fourth in the World Jr. Softball Championships.
McKay said his team played five exhibition games and seven more in the tournament itself, noting the Canucks stacked up pretty well against the competition given the time of year.
“It’s summer everywhere else; it’s not summer here,” he said on a chilly November evening. “We had to do a lot of training to get back into the ball mode. I think overall, if we’d been involved in ball a little more, we would have done better.”
The biggest difference between the Canadians and other teams on hand was simply the timing required in the game, especially when taking their cuts, said McKay.
“We lost 3-0 in extra innings to the team that won the silver medal and 1-0 to Argentina, the team that won the gold medal, so we were right there with them,” he noted.
In review, McKay said this “was an experience of a lifetime,” as his days of playing in the same tournament are over now given his age.
As for Richard, he found himself playing a major role in Canada’s hunt for hockey gold and aside from a 6-3 loss to the U.S. in the championship game, things went extremely well, he said.
“It was an unbelievable experience, a lot of fun,” he began. “The level of play there was incredibly high and we were treated first-class.”
Asked about the varying styles of play by the different countries in the tournament, Richard said those were noticeable.
“I think some of the stereotypes of some of the countries were spot-on. The Canadians played hard and were gritty while some of the European guys, like the Czechs and the Russians, were more skilled. But, every team was solid and any team could have won it.”
As one of the older players on the roster and thus taking on a leadership role with the Canuck squad, Richard said he enjoyed the challenge that presented.
“Only having five ‘93s (birth year) on the team, they definitely needed guys to step up and kind of show the way to the younger guys. The five of us stepped up and were pretty successful.”
Asked about his immersion into international hockey, Richard said his first taste was an incredible journey, especially one particular moment.
“I think the first game where the crowd was so loud is what I’ll remember. It was unbelievable to put the Canadian sweater on; it was just a blast!”
Jason Mckee, the head coach of the Saints acted as an assistant in the World Jr. A Challenge and said the entire production was well run and that he was extremely pleased with the role Richard played for the Canucks.
“Dylan played a lot for us; on the PK, on the power play, against the other teams’ top line. He did a real good job.
“He went into the camp a little banged up and still found a way to make the team and as it went along got healthier. He was a huge part of that team, no question. He played extremely well.”
As for what he learned from the other coaches he worked with, the bench boss said he’s likely to put some of those ideas into play.
“There was a few things along the way I’ll try to incorporate but it’s a different experience, a different type of competition, a week-long tournament. It’s definitely different than a long playoff series. It was a great experience and the CJHL did a great job with it. The rink was full the whole week and from my standpoint it was extremely well done and nice to be a part of it.”