Less than a month ago, John Tavares helped lead Canada to a fifth consecutive World Junior Championship in the nation’s capital. Then, he was a member of the Oshawa Generals, but in his first visit back to Ottawa, Tavares donned the green and gold of the London Knights.
Tavares scored goal and added a helper Super Sunday at the Ottawa Civic Center, but was unable to prevent the hometown 67’s from a 4-3 victory. With his Knights down 3-2 late in the third, the Oakville, Ontario native once again brought the Ottawa faithful to its feet. Tavares patiently circled the 67’s net and snapped home his 41st goal of the season, giving the Ottawa fans another highlight-reel goal, something they had become so accustomed to only one month ago.
“I just try to do what I do and obviously, one of my strengths is to put the puck in the net. I saw the goalie go down and the defenseman thinking the pass was coming so I just kind of saw the goalie over committing and put it upstairs. It was nice to score that one and obviously a few weeks ago was a special time for everyone here.”
Indeed it was. Tavares tied for the tournament lead in goals with eight, and was only behind Vancouver Canucks first-round draft pick Cody Hodgson in points with 15. Along with the likes of Hodgson, Jordan Eberle – who undoubtedly scored the most memorable goal of the tournament in the semi-finals against Russia – and others, Tavares successfully helped Canada complete its drive for five. Nearly a month later, Tavares still has a soft spot for the Ottawa, and the feeling is mutual.
“I’m still trying to soak it all in, but it was a great time and it was a remarkable event. I was proud to represent my country, and the warm welcome that I get back here is special.”
In a tournament chock-full of drama – the New Year’s eve comeback against the U.S., Eberle’s last minute heroics against the Russians, or the serenading of Victor Hedman – Tavares singles out the most simple, yet most rewarding event as his fondest memory.
“I just think the whole thing was really special; you don’t get to be part of those things very often. That tournament means so much to people here, and to be on home ice in our capital city, the whole thing was great. As soon as the clock was counting down and winning gold, I don’t think there’s any greater feeling than all that hard work paying off and succeeding.”
Although back in Ottawa for perhaps the final time in his junior career, barring a London and Ottawa playoff match-up, the projected first overall selection in next summer’s entry draft has another focus in mind.
“I don’t want to put too much emphasis on my last games in last places or what’s coming ahead. I think I just want to live in the moment, play in the moment, and do what I have to do.”
And the London Knights organization expects that to be joining the likes of Nazem Kadri, Philip McCrae, John Carlson and others in leading this squad to a lengthy playoff run, and a Memorial Cup berth. Tavares realizes what is expected of him, and is certainly up for the challenge.
“I know I have a great opportunity here in London. We have a lot of great players, a great team, a great staff and they welcomed me with open arms and are excited to have me. I’m motivated to win, and I think everyone else is too. We know what’s at stake and the opportunity we have so we’re not going to take it for granted.”
If the Ottawa Senators colossal slide continues, perhaps it won’t be long before Canada’s capital city will once again have a reason to cheer for the all-time Canadian World Junior goal scoring leader.