The Canadian world junior hockey team will be spending a couple of days bonding in Finland next week, but they may not need it. This is, in many ways, already a very close group. Many players on the team did not just celebrate their own success on Thursday, they also celebrated the success of a good friend. Here is a look at a few of those stories:
'I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M ACTUALLY ON THE TEAM'
Niagara IceDogs linemates Brett Ritchie and Ryan Strome, who live with the same billet family, have been a dominant duo during the first part of the season. Strome leads the OHL in points (62 in 32 games) while Ritchie is tied for the lead in goals (27 in 32 games).
"I thought, coming to this tryout, that if we could make this team together it would be special," said Ritchie. "We've known each other for a long time so it's pretty cool."
And Strome, a returning player and thus considered a lock to make the squad from the start, always believed Ritchie would be joining him in Russia.
"I told him before the camp he has nothing to worry about," said Strome, an Islanders prospect. "He played well the first night and solidified his spot, but he was still nervous. He asked me going down to dinner [right before the final cuts] if he had anything to worry about, but I said, 'No, you're fine, you have nothing to worry about.'"
But Ritchie wouldn't believe it until the end.
"I never really thought I was going to be on the team until it was actually official," he said. "It's sort of hard to explain actually, you know, obviously I was really nervous. It's more relief than anything. I can't believe I'm actually on the team."
Despite all the emotion that came with the final team selection on Thursday, Strome and Ritchie had no problem taking shots at each other.
"He's a bad driver and he's on his phone way more than I am," said Strome when asked to name one thing people don't know about Ritchie.
"That's a lie," countered Ritchie. "I'm not a good driver, but he wins the award for most time spent on his phone. Three batteries a day! Texting, Twitter, the whole bit.
"He's better than me at [the video game] Call of Duty. I'll give him that."
TWO MOOSEHEADS BETTER THAN ONE
One of the biggest stories of the camp was the play of Halifax linemates Nate MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin. Both 17-year-olds made the final roster, joining Sidney Crosby as the only first-time draft-eligible players to make the Canadian junior team when the NHL is in the midst of a work stoppage.
"We're pretty similar," Drouin said earlier this week. "We always hang out a lot and it helps our on-ice chemistry. We're best friends off the ice."
"We're both competitive guys," said MacKinnon, "and we want the same thing so personality-wise it kind of clicks and we've been friends ever since he got to Halifax last year."
Canadian head coach Steve Spott played MacKinnon and Drouin on the same line at points during the selection camp, but despite their good chemistry doesn't plan on using them together at the tournament in Ufa, Russia.
"One thing I will say: you won't see them on the same line," said Spott. "That could morph into a situation later, but not at the start."
'I DON'T THINK I'D BE WHERE I AM WITHOUT HIM'
Barrie's Anthony Camara was considered an underdog to make the team when camp opened on Tuesday, but played his way onto the squad with his Colts teammate Mark Scheifele cheering him on every step of the way.
"He helped me out a lot actually" said Camara, who is tied for fourth in the OHL with 22 goals in 30 games. "I don't think I'd be where I am without him. From day one he was a big help. Coming here he told me what to do."
"Cammy's a great player," said Scheifele. "I've got to know him over the last year-and-a-half. We've been roommates since last December.
"I just told him to play his game and be physical, use your body, use your assets, he's a big guy, a strong kid, he can do it all. He scored (Thursday) in the game, he was laying the body all week and I think that's a huge thing. He brought everything he could to the table. I think the coaching staff noticed that he really wanted it and I knew he wanted it since the start of the year.
"I couldn't be happier for him."
'HE'S PROVEN EVERYBODY WRONG'
Owen Sound goalie Jordan Binnington didn't find out he made the team until he got a call from a good friend on Thursday afternoon.
"I was sitting in my hotel room watching Scooby-Doo actually, just trying to do anything to take my mind off it, but then I got a phone call from Ryan Murphy who told me [Edmonton goalie] Laurent Brossoit had been cut so it was a nice thing to hear for me.
"I thanked him for that call. I wouldn't have known for a little bit there, but I'm glad it's all over with."
Binnington, from Richmond Hill, Ont. and Murphy, from Kitchener, Ont., have known each other for awhile and hang out in the same group of friends. Needless to say, Binnington was happy that Murphy, a Kitchener Rangers defenceman, who was cut the two previous years at the junior camp, made the team as well.
"He deserves it," said Binnington. "He battled hard all camp. He was nervous. He didn't want to be Dan Cleary (the only player to be cut three times and never suit up for Canada at the tournament) but he's proven everybody wrong and hopefully he'll show well in this tournament."
The players will take a team picture on Friday before once again meeting with the media. On Saturday the team will hold its first full practice before departing for Finland where a pre-tournament camp, including games against Sweden and Finland, will be held. The tournament opens on Boxing Day with Canada facing Germany on TSN at 4am et/1am pt.