It might not have been the colour they wanted, but Cochrane-born Mason Raymond and his Hockey Canada teammates can still hold their heads high after they defeated the Czech Republic in the bronze medal game at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games on Feb. 24.
The 6-4 victory over the Czechs was easily the best of the six games the Canadian team played in this year’s unusual Olympic tournament. During the game they showed heaps of pride and character against a Czech Republic side that had defeated them 3-2 in a shootout in round-robin play.
Raymond finished the tournament playing in all six games, recording a goal and an assist to go along with six penalty minutes.
Without the help of National Hockey League (NHL) players, Hockey Canada drew talent from seven different leagues across North America and Europe before settling on a 25-man roster that has more than 5,500 NHL games under its belt. Raymond logged his NHL games with the Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames and the Anaheim Ducks. His best season was in 2009-10 with Vancouver, where the 32 year-old forward scored 25 goals and added 28 assists for 53 points in 70 games. He has a career NHL total of 115 goals and 136 assists for 251 points in 546 games played.
After Anaheim, Raymond moved to Switzerland to lace up the skates with SC Bern, a team that plays in the top tier Swiss hockey league, where he has played in 34 games, registering 17 goals and 17 assists for 34 points.
Even with playing all those games in the NHL, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011 with Vancouver, Raymond said winning an Olympic bronze, will likely be the highlight of his hockey career.
“I grew up dreaming I’d be an Olympic medallist, but this is pretty surreal. It’s a pretty special feeling, especially after we were able to battle back after a tough game against Germany (in the semifinals),” Raymond said.
“It’s just a great feeling … I’m so proud to wear this jersey like every other Canadian is, and to be able represent our country and finish on the note we did (with the bronze medal) it’s definitely up there and could be the pinnacle of my career.”
This wasn’t the first time Raymond has suited up for Canada during an international tournament, as he played for Canada at both the 2017 and 2016 Spengler Cup, winning the championship on both occasions, while also suiting up for his country at the 2017 Karjala Cup and 2017 Sochi Hockey Open. Raymond also played for Canada at the 2010 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championships in Germany, finishing seventh.
The medal game was redemption for Team Canada who lost to the Czech during the round robin.
Captain Chris Kelly and Andrew Ebbett both scored a pair of goals, while Derek Roy and Wojtek Wolski also scored for the Canadians. Goaltender Kevin Poulin made 30 saves to secure only the third bronze medal won in Canadian men’s Olympic play, with the others coming in 1956 and 1968.
Though they were unable to defend the gold medals won in Sochi in 2014 and in Vancouver in 2010, the Canadians were able to add to the country’s record haul with the 29th medal of these Games. They also avoided missing the podium for the first time since the 2006 Torino Olympics.
In preliminary-round action, the Canadians posted a 2-0-1 record, winning their games against Switzerland and South Korea, and posting a shootout loss to the Czech Republic. Canada went on to win the quarterfinal over Finland by a score of 1-0, and they were edged 4-3 by Germany in the semifinals.
“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to the players. We talked about representing your country; we talked about being part of the medals for Canada. (Team Canada has) set a record, and we wanted to be part of that. It was about more than just us. They didn’t come over here just to march in the Opening Ceremony … they wanted to do something special,” said head coach Willie Desjardins of his team’s performance to ensure they secured a medal.
“We talked about how special this one chance is, and how the game against Germany didn’t go the way we wanted, but I think that’s how their whole career has gone. Some things don’t go the way they wanted, but they just don’t give up. I’m really proud of our guys and how they battled.”