It’s a significant honour to be selected to represent one’s country and there’s added notoriety if you’re the only one from a particular region. One of four B.C. players on the 2011 Canadian National Junior Hockey team, Tyson Barrie is the only Vancouver Islander on the squad.
The high-level defenceman of the major junior Western Hockey League Kelowna Rockets, paid a recent visit to the Sooke Hockey Academy at the invitation of his uncle and academy instructor Mark Barrie.
All involved agreed it was a worthwhile experience.
Tyson was contacted after the fact while preparing in Kelowna last Saturday for a game that night versus the Medicine Hat Tigers.
He first responded to a question about the World Junior Championship which had completed earlier this month in Buffalo, New York with a Canada-Russia showdown for gold.
“It was probably one of the best experiences of my life,” he stated. “Despite the way the final ended (Russian comeback win) it was something I’ll never forget, a huge honour and one of the funnest times of my life.”
Barrie indicated that he’d missed 10 games with a hamstring injury near the start of the season, but is now in top shape. With the national commitment behind him he’s focusing on helping his Rockets advance.
“We’re tied for first in our (BC) division,” he related. “We’re starting to turn it on a bit after a bit of a rough start so it’s nice to see.”
Tyson was told about the positive reaction to his Sooke visit by a couple of academy members. He was asked if the feeling was mutual.
“It’s a cool thing,” said Barrie who will be 20 in July. “It’s not too long ago I was in the hockey program. It’s nice, you don’t really think about it when you’re in the position I’m in right now. I’m still kind of wondering why people want to meet me.
“But it’s definitely cool to meet kids who want to do the same things I’ve been doing.”
A couple of young hockey products indicated what a strong impression is made by events like the World Junior tournament.
“I watched as many games as I could,” said 15-year-old midget forward Nick Pfeifer Friday at the SEAPARC rink. “I think I like it more than the NHL.
“It’s a bunch of guys trying to make it and they went all out for their country.” Pfeifer conceded that the final may have been disappointing, but added, “silver’s a lot better than bronze.”
Asked about the value of meeting a guy like the Rockets’ captain and Colorado draft pick, Pfeifer said, “He’s a good role model, a good player, very talented… very humble.”
Pfeifer says he wants to go as far with hockey as the sport will take him. He hopes his efforts will earn him a scholarship.
Fellow midget player Clay McClimon, 17, also felt the Barrie visit was worthwhile and he too was not far from a TV while the world tourney was underway.
“I tried to watch all of the Canada games,” he recalled. “We were over in Vancouver in our own tournament so a lot of our guys watched as much as possible. The last game was a bit of a disappointment but at least we beat the Americans.”
Like Pfeifer, McClimon is hoping to parlay his hockey into a post-secondary education, and possibly more.
The left-winger agreed that Barrie’s visit was inspiring.
“I thought it was really cool that he came in,” said McClimon, “just to watch him on the ice. He’s just that much better… the elite level that he plays at. I think it was really good having him come out. A lot of guys were real impressed ‘cause he’s a really nice kid and it’s nice to see someone from the Island make it… someone you know, kind of. It makes you feel you can make it too.”