Team Canada may have won The World Cup of Hockey and Team North America may have been its darlings, but the tournament was definitely a huge win for Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak. He reestablished himself by taking ragtag Battlestar Galactica fleet Team Europe to the final against Canada and showed the audience (and maybe some of his bosses) that he was healthy after sports hernia surgery and worthy of being an everyday starter.
In an article for The Players Tribune, Halak recounts the fun September ride and reminisces about how the roster made up of players from eight separate countries came together as a team to win games no one gave them a chance to.
People are always asking now, “How did this happen? How did it work? How did you make it to the finals?” And I say, “We just played hockey and we had a lot of fun doing it.” We had the flag of our country on our shoulders, but we had the European E on our chest. We were one team and that was all that mattered.
If you’re looking for any Islanders insights (particularly into the still-past-its-expiration date three goalie system), don’t bother. This is all Jaro talking about the World Cup. But one interesting quote sticks out about Team Europe coach Ralph Krueger, who also made a good second impression on the NHL after his unceremonious cyber firing by the Edmonton Oilers back in 2013.
Halak is a fan of the German coach.
Our improvement started with our coaches: Ralph Krueger. Paul Maurice. Brad Shaw. After the North Americans won 4–0 in the first exhibition, the coaches asked us to come into the video room. We did not know how the coaches would react. But the coaches did something very good. They brought out the positives in the game. They did not pick on guys. They showed us the system that they wanted us to play so that we could be successful.
Halak also talks about Mats Zuccarello’s sense of humor, scary on the outside but easy-going on the inside Zdeno Chara and gives a game-by-game account of Team Europe’s run. He ends with some positive words of wisdom that apply for hockey and really anywhere:
So if someone ever says to you, “That is not possible,” do not listen to them. Because a couple of hockey players from eight small little countries made the final of the World Cup. For goodness sakes, our head coach is the chairman of Southampton F.C.! You look at this and you have to say, Anything is possible.
If you doubt that sentiment, remember that the two top movies at the box office last week were major motion pictures about Doctor Strange and freakin’ Troll dolls. So, believe him.