When Canada loses in any hockey tournament and falls short of a medal, it’s always a big deal. And though the competition is getting stiffer at the junior level where Canada is going through a phase of less success than ever before, the expectations remain as high as ever.
And some people take that way too far.
When the Canadians lost to Finland 2-1 in overtime of the WJC quarterfinal a collection of dullards and bad apples felt the need to lash out at Max Comtois via Instagram, in many cases going way too far with profanity-laced and even personal attacks. The 19-year-old failed to convert on a penalty shot in the extra frame and the Finns scored shortly after. How absurd is it that Comtois’ agents had to release a statement condemning this kind of behaviour?
Sidney Crosby played in two WJCs, but experienced the tournament at the height of Canada’s powers. He earned a silver and gold medal in 2004 and 2005 so didn’t have to face the same kind of disappointed vitriol some are flinging at this year’s team. But the Penguins star was asked about his thoughts on the blowback Comtois has had to endure following the loss.
“I feel bad,” Crosby told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It’s too bad that people have to react that way, and social media gives them that opportunity. My advice to him would be to ignore it. He’s a great player. He’s going to have a great career. That’s not going to define who he is — that penalty shot.”
By any measure Comtois, an Anaheim Ducks prospect, had a great tournament for Canada. He wore the captain’s C and his five goals are tied for first in the tournament to this point. He played 20:30 in the quarterfinal game and was clearly coach Tim Hunter’s go-to guy.
His shootout history is even strong in his QMJHL career, going 3-for-7 for a 42.9 per cent success rate and he scored a shootout winner against the Russians in 2017 during the CIBC Canada-Russia series. His first NHL goal came on a breakaway.
He wasn’t a bad choice.
So you might notice we haven’t used the word “fan” to describe the hit-and-run keyboard cowboys who felt the urge to attack Comtois over the team’s loss. Crosby hit on this note when talking to reporters, too, pointing out that true supporters of a team don’t just celebrate the highs, but feel and push through the lows with the team they supposedly support.
“The real fans and the players who are behind you … I think everybody is there to support him,” Crosby said. “Anything can happen in hockey in a quarterfinal game like that. You see [Dobson’s] stick break, it was one of those things. It’s easy to be a good fan when you’re winning. It’s a little tougher when you’re losing. I think everyone should keep that in mind.”
It’s important to remember Canada was a broken stick away from winning that game. Had Dobson not had his equipment malfunction at precisely the worst moment, it sure looked like he was about to bury the overtime winner. A Finnish stick company poked a little fun at the stroke of bad luck to rub salt in the wound — in an amusing way.
If anything, Comtois should be commended for how he handled everything post-game. Like a stand-up NHL captain would, Comtois faced the media and answered every question directed his way in what must have been one of the worst moments of his NHL career.
He didn’t cower the way his attackers did.