In hockey there have been numerous moments — namely goals — that get the title of “the shot heard ’round the world”. It is an overused expression. Steve Yzerman’s bomb of a long shot that eliminated the St. Louis Blues in Game Seven of ’96. The infamous Cup-winning “no goal” by Brett Hull over Buffalo in ’99. Eighteen years later there would be another goal in Buffalo that’s reverberations reached across oceans and from nation to nation. This one came off the stick of Canada’s Tyler Steenbergen just two days before his 20th birthday.
But let’s back up a few steps here. There is always a loading process before any shot is fired. In the case of Canada’s monumental victory over Sweden at the 2018 World Junior Championships in Buffalo, the Conor Timmins’ feed from the point that generated the Steenbergen goal was orchestrated to perfection. With a minute and 40 seconds remaining in the game, it was Timmins play that brought about golden elation for Canada.
I had the opportunity to speak with Timmins after the big game. I got his thoughts on the play and what the moment meant for him and his teammates.
Spotting Steenbergen and Setting up the Play
Until he converted Timmins feed for the game-winner, Steenbergen was the only Team Canada forward who had not registered a goal yet at the tournament. The fates have a unique way of allowing a story to unravel, and this one was very fitting. Everyone could relish in the storyline of the player with no goals scoring the one that mattered most.
What was difficult to determine though was whether Timmins planned it that way himself. Truly, the entire play happened very fast, and seemed almost instinctual. When I asked Timmins about it after the game, though, it seemed more of a calculated decision based upon what he had been seeing throughout the course of the game.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) January 6, 2018
“They were doing a pretty good of getting in the shooting lane all night,” Timmins explained. “So I was just trying to look for a shot-pass. Luckily Steener was coming out of the corner, and we just happened to connect. It was great,” he smiled.
It was a remarkable goal no matter how it developed, and one that will be the talk of World Junior tournaments for future years. One could even say that Timmins and Steenbergen will tell their grandkids about it someday.
Team Canada’s Family Affair
One vitally important aspect of Canada’s success in Buffalo is that the team was very much tightly knit. These young men were a family to one another. While the same could be said for other teams at this tournament, Canada just seemed to exude that notion more. It was a presence, in a way, that was felt any time you were around them. Timmins was able to confirm these sentiments.
“Obviously I went through with Boris Katchouk from my team (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds),” Timmins told me. “It was definitely pretty cool and pretty special to share that with him. Like you said, we’re all a family here. I didn’t feel that any one teammate was more special than the other. We’re all really close, and just great to go through with all those guys.”
Timmins’ and Katchouk’s familiarity with one another was certainly paramount in creating that family atmosphere for Canada. Both young men playing together in Sault Ste. Marie, they have been just awesome together for the Greyhounds — they are alternate captains together. Here, in the 2017-18 season, Timmins has 34 points (6 goals, 28 assists) in 29 games while Katchouk has scored 48 (28 goals, 20 assists) in 31 games. Though one is a blueliner and the other a forward, they still ended up being a solid tandem for Canada.
Timmins Is So Defensively Sound
No player at the tournament was more defensively responsible than Timmins. He blew the plus/minus ratings out of the water. In seven games, only one goal was scored on Canada while he was on the ice. That is opposed to the 16 goals that Canada generated while Timmins was out there. His total plus-15 was the best number for any player at the tournament, and was so by four markers.
I asked Timmins about what characteristics he possesses that makes him so defensively sound. He responded:
I think just my ability to move pucks out quick. I think when you’re moving pucks up to the forwards you’re not spending a lot of time in your zone. Just good positioning defensively. I think it’s just little things that I like to work on in my game and it paid off this tournament.
Also through his seven WJC games, Timmins had a goal and four assists. His goal came in the 8-2 quarterfinal victory over Switzerland when he jumped up into a rush. Oddly enough, Steenbergen had the primary assist on the Timmins tally.
The Celebration of Sweet, Golden Victory
Timmins recognized that while the tournament as a whole brought many challenges, the toughest one was defeating the Swedes in the gold medal game. After all, through the majority of the game it was a dead-heat, folks. One could even say that in the second period Sweden even outplayed Canada. That only further adds to the Timmins’ feed to Steenbergen as being of monumental importance.
“Obviously they were a really good team,” Timmins explained. “They were really skilled. I think we really came together as a team and played our best game. We got better each game of the tournament, which was our goal. I think tonight was a great culmination of all that and I’m really proud of every one of those guys.”
Timmins also had folks in attendance who were really proud of him. The 2017 second round selection of the Colorado Avalanche is a native of Thorold, Ontario, Canada. The drive between Thorold and Buffalo is all of 50 minutes at most. Having the World Juniors in Buffalo was prime positioning to be able to support their native son.
“If I could guess, I probably had 50 people here at least. Definitely really special to have all those people in the building, and I’m really excited to share it with them…”
With great certainty, I know that you made not only all of your loved ones proud, Conor, but also all of Canada too.