It’s one of the best Christmas gifts a young Canadian hockey player could get and for Red Deer Rebel defenceman Haydn Fleury, it was oh-so-close to being under the tree this year.
It began with a phone call inviting him to the camp of the Canadian World Junior team and he was excited to show what he can do.
However, this story didn’t have a happy ending for the 18-year-old from Carlyle, Saskatchewan as he was cut just before the tournament started.
“I felt I kept playing better each day and I felt I played really good hockey,” he said but at the end of the day the coaching staff didn’t see him fitting into the defense corps this time.
He admits when he got the news he was being sent back to his team his pride took a bit of a body check.
“I felt I had earned a spot on the team for sure and yeah it did hurt a bit. I know when I went home I didn’t really feel like doing anything, I was mad at the world,” he said.
It took some time to put it behind him and he admits he didn’t really think he would watch any of the games but he did. He also took away some life lessons through this experience.
“I learned I can play with those kind of players. I can be in that elite group of guys that play for Canada,” he said. “I knew I was right there so I’m just going to bring that back to Red Deer and help this team go on a long playoff run.”
This wasn’t his first camp when it came to wearing the maple leaf on the front of the jersey as he played for the U-18 team but he says the two camps were the same in some ways but different in other aspects.
“They’re a little bit the same but you just multiply the magnitude of the world juniors. The world juniors is that much more bigger and that much more pressure, especially in Montreal and Toronto.”
“I enjoyed it (the pressure). I like playing in front of those big crowds and having 18 thousand people cheering for you. It makes the game more fun.”
He says looking back on the camp there were a few minor things he could have done differently but for the most part he was pleased with the effort he put into those sessions.
Fleury said he can’t dwell on how things played out for him but he does join a list of players who came close in their first junior camp .
“(Anthony) Duclair, (Darnell) Nurse and (Shea) Theodore on the back end with (Madison) Bowey. All those guys didn’t play for the team last year and now they’re playing big roles for the team so I can always look at that as a positive and say this year wasn’t my year but I can always go next year and make a difference for that team.”
The focus for him now is to make a difference as a Rebel and be supportive in his role here.
“I’m just going to be a positive influence in the dressing room and lead more with my action on the ice. I’m not the most vocal guy but I think if I play well I will let my play do the talking.”
While he isn’t going to lose sleep over his world junior exit he admits it will serve as motivation as the WHL season rolls on.
“Yeah, anytime you get cut you always have that chip on your shoulder and you want to prove the coaches wrong.”
Time will tell.