Seattle’s 4-1 win over Spokane Sunday night was most likely the last time the T-Birds will see Shea Theodore for the rest of the year. Well, the rest of the calendar year, that is. The high-scoring defenseman is headed to Calgary this week to compete for a spot with the Canadian World Junior Championship team.
“I’m pretty excited,” Theodore said. “Ever since I got the phone call from the coach it’s kind of hard to get it out of the back of your mind when you go to sleep at night.”
It may be hard for hockey fans in the United States to properly grasp how big a deal the World Junior Championships are in Canada. The entire country will be watching and winning means everything. This year, the tournament is being played in Toronto and Montreal, which adds even more excitement – and pressure. The pressure will be on Theodore and Team Canada, which has won a record 15 World Junior Gold medals but has failed to win it in the last five years. That drought has added to the nation’s hockey angst.
“I know the crowds are going to be pretty crazy,” Theodore said. “There is quite a lot of hype leading up to it but at the end of the day it’s hockey. We’ve all played hundreds of games since we were young so it’s just another game, just on a little bit bigger stage.”
According to an online ticket broker, a seat to the gold medal game on Jan. 5 will run you just under $350. If Canada is in that game expect those prices to skyrocket. The tournament kicks off on Dec. 26.
Theodore was not invited to the Selection Camp last year, which was somewhat of a surprise. After failing to medal the Canadians are looking to ice a roster featuring as many 19-year-olds they can this year, a category that Theodore fits in.
Hockey Canada got a look at Theodore during its summer camp and reports are that he performed well. The Anaheim Ducks’ first-rounder also got a look at this year’s Subway Super Series game against the Russians in Saskatoon. Those experiences give him some confidence headed into this camp.
“Going to the summer camp, that was something that was exciting,” he said. “Getting picked for the camp here, I’m excited to go and just play my hardest and work my way on to the team.”
Theodore is one of 14 WHL players at the camp and he will have his work cut out for him. Canada has invited 10 defenseman and most likely will only keep seven. Prince Albert’s Josh Morrissey and Owen Sound’s (OHL) Chris Bigras are the only two returning defenseman, meaning the other five spots are up for grabs.
“I think they’re trying to bring me in for some offense, which is what I do when I’m playing my best hockey,” Theodore said of the camp. “I’m just going to try and move the puck, not try to do it all myself, playing with the best players from across the country. Just move the puck up and play a real smart puck-moving game.”
Seattle fans have seen that from Theodore in his three years with the T-Birds. He is the franchise’s all-time leading goal-scoring defenseman with 47 career tallies. He is closing in on the club’s top spot in overall defenseman scoring, which he will own by the end of the year. His play got him drafted in the first round of the 2013 NHL Draft by the Ducks and they have signed him to a three-year entry level contract.
That’s a pretty good resume for Hockey Canada to consider but Theodore knows that he will have to prove it on the ice.
One of the highlights of the tournament is the annual New Year’s Eve game against Team U.S.A. The two countries have formed quite a rivalry over the past decade and most Canadian kids will tell you how much they have loved watching that game each year. For Theodore, he’s trying to temper his excitement over the potential to play in it.
“I can’t even explain how cool that’d be but I can’t really look that far ahead,” he said. “I’ve just got to go in and work my way on the team. Nothing is for sure and I’m going to go and just play my hardest. Nothing is going to be given to me.”
If Theodore makes the squad he will be the 10th T-Bird to play for Team Canada and the first since Thomas Hickey in 2009. Hickey won gold in 2008 and 2009. Playing for a junior team based in the U.S., Theodore is aware that most T-Birds fans will be rooting for the Americans in the tournament. He hopes there are no hard feelings if things go the way he wants them to.
“You know, what has to be done has to be done, so we’ll see,” he said with a smile.