In the hallowed tradition of Canadian hockey, a new name has been etched alongside the storied greats: Matthew Wood of Nanaimo, heir to a legacy of Island talent, is slated to don the maple-leafed jersey in the impending dance of the world junior hockey championship. As Gothenburg, Sweden, readies for its Boxing Day commencement, Wood emerged triumphant from the grueling gauntlet of Oakville, Ontario’s 30-player selection camp. Within the heralded ranks of the 22, Wood’s prowess as a forward earned him a coveted spot.
Ascendant among giants, the six-foot-four power winger cuts an imposing figure, his skill a beacon in the collegiate hockey realms with the University of Connecticut Huskies. His fledgling career, marked by seven goals and five assists over 17 games, whispers promise — a promise vested by the Nashville Predators with a first-round blessing in last summer’s NHL draft. Alongside him, sharing the honor of NCAA representation, stands Macklin Celebrini, Boston University’s shining prodigy and the tantalizing No. 1 whisper for the 2024 NHL draft.
A cadre of the West’s finest, eight stalwarts from the Western Hockey League, will march alongside Wood. “This was a tremendously competitive camp,” intoned Peter Anholt, the sage overseer from the U-20 lead for Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence management group. “The depth of talent that exists across the country,” he mused, spoke of a crucible from which only the finest emerged. Selected were not merely players but champions in waiting, a contingent Anholt and his counsel of wisdom—the coaches, the strategists—believe poised to reclaim gold in Swedish climes.
With this new honor, Wood treads a path well-worn by Islanders before him. He traces the strides of Dylan Garand of Langford, the steadfast guardian of the net, whose heroic feats propelled Canada to a gleaming 2022 victory. Garand, a custodian of the silver as well, joined an elite cadre including former Grizzlies captain Alex Newhook. As the Island’s pantheon harks back to the legendary Kent Manderville’s consecutive triumphs, one finds in their stories the echoes of Morrison, of Port Alberni’s valiant Paul Cyr, their dual medals shimmering with the luster of an undying legacy.
The tapestry of Island participation is rich and multifarious, woven from such threads as Mel Bridgman and the late Rick Lapointe, their 1975 silver a gleaming testament to their prowess. Intricately interlaced within is the fabled moment from 1982—a hushed tape machine in a nondescript rink in Rochester, Minnesota, and the resonant chorus of O Canada rising unbidden from the throats of Canadian players, Morrison and Cyr included.
From this wellspring of history, others too have emerged, their journeys emblazoned across the decades: Jamie Benn of Central Saanich, with his transcendent influence on the 2009 victory in Ottawa, and Joes Hicketts, whose deft maneuverings were instrumental in 2015. Names like Brett Connolly and Tyson Barrie, silver recipients in 2011, and Matt Pettinger’s steadfast course to bronze in the 2000 tournament.
Even those who returned without medals have shaped the narrative, with Rod Brind’Amour and Russ Courtnall adding their chapters. And now, as the Royals’ Robin Sapousek and Casper Haugen Evensen set their sights on the 2024 world stage, they join a lineage unbroken, a testament to Canada’s enduring drumbeat across the ice-cold stage of glory.