VOORHEES, N.J. – Matt Read didn’t get a medal. There were no celebratory pictures. There was no hero’s welcome home.
No, if nothing else, from a hockey perspective, his first experience of international hockey competition ended in frustration and disappointment.
And yet, Read said the experience was something he will never forget for the rest of his life.
That’s how much it means to pull on that red sweater with the Maple Leaf crest to represent your country.
“When you’re a kid growing up in Canada all you want to do is play for your country,” Read said. “Sure, every kid dreams about playing in the NHL, and when you are a good player, that is still the ultimate goal and te ultimate dream, but the first thing you want to do as a hockey player is play for Canada.
“Every year as a kid, during Christmas break, all you did was watch the World Juniors. It means so much in Canada. As a player, that’s what you want to do – play for Canada. It’s definitely a dream for every teenager. It’s not as big in Europe or the U.S. but it means a lot in Canada.”
Well, Read never got to play for Canada in the World Juniors, but a little more than six years later, he got to put on that Team Canada sweater for the first time anyway.
Upon the completion of the Flyers season, Read was one of 10 Flyers – and one of four Canadians – asked to represent their country at the Mn’s World Championships.
It wasn’t the World Juniors, but he’ll take it.
“It was just an honor to pull that jersey on,” Read said. “When I did it for the first time, I looked around the locker room and saw a room full of NHL All-Stars and couldn’t believe I was there.
“I needed the first warm up skate at the first practice to kind of shake out the nerves… but I’m glad there were some familiar faces out there with me to kind of make it easier.”
“It was a great experience to be able to share that with some of your best friends from Philadelphia,” Read said. “It definitely made it an easier adjustment to the big ice and how the game is played differently over there when you don’t have to go through it alone.
“I know I was already a little used to it because I played over there during the lockout, but it was definitely different doing it by playing for a national team.”
Read played all eight games for Canada, scoring one goal and adding two assists for three points while averaging 14:32 of ice time per game.
In the eight games, Canada went an impressive 6-0-2, and yet came home empty-handed.
Therein lies the curse of the shootout being used to decide international play.
“Yeah, to say that you didn’t lose a game in regulation and yet you didn’t medal is a back-breaker for sure,” Read said. “But, in the quarterfinal against Sweden – it was a really good game with a lot of chances both ways. Both goalies played really well and maybe, in the end, they were better at playing the style necessary to be successful on the big ice than we were and they were able to pull it out in the shoot out.
“You learn a lesson from that. If you get a chance to play again down the road you know you need to play differently. Maybe you block a shot to prevent a goal or you do something special to make sure your team can score a goal before it gets tot hat shootout.”
Yet, while it Read and his teammates came home empty-handed, he said it was a memorable experience and one he would definitely do again – albeit not in place of playing hockey in May for the Flyers.
“There’s no doubt that I’d rather be playing hockey for the Flyers right now instead,” he said. “I would welcome the opportunity to play for Canada again somewhere at some time, but this time of year we should be playing in the NHL playoffs. The fact that we’re not doesn’t feel right.”
Read is planning on spending the summer in Minnesota training for next season. He said he’s going to take a couple weeks off to recover from his “bumps and bruises” that he suffered during the season, visit his family in Ontario and sneak in a vacation to Mexico, but by mid-June will be immersed in his offseason program.
“I’ll be back in Philly in early August and I’ll be ready to go and look forward to a good training camp and starting next season off on the right foot,” Read said. “I think we’re all going to be focused on a good start to next season after what happened this year.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37
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