Once upon a prairie

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Remembering John Slaney's 1991 gold medal-winning goal

St. John's -

I can't count the number of haircuts I've had in my life. But I can count the number of times my bright orange rug hasn't been clipped by a member of the Slaney clan.

The late, often cantankerous but always friendly, Joe Slaney was the first to tackle my double crown and to this day, his daughter Cathy keeps me trimmed.

Very early in the Oliver family men's patronage of the Merrymeeting Road barbershop, I was always excited to go in case I might see Joe's son, John. It might have only happened once or twice, but at the time, that was enough. My interest in John's career continued to grow when he was drafted into the Ontario Hockey League by the Cornwall Royals. (I still have a Royals jersey with Slaney and his No. 27 on the back though it fit better when I was 10.

When John was named to Team Canada for the upcoming 1991 World Junior Hockey Championships, I went through the roof. Christmas now had new meaning for me. Presents, candy, turkey dinner and all the other staples of the holiday season ceased to matter. John not Canada was playing for Gold. Toys? Pfft. Just think of all the newspaper clippings that would make their way to my John Slaney scrapbook!

The game, being played in Saskatoon, was on late. So late the last two periods of the game would surpass my 11-year-old bedtime. After some convincing, my father allowed me to stay up to watch till the end ... if I could stay awake.

I couldn't.

Halfway through the second period, I was out cold on the couch. When I woke the next day, I couldn't hide the disappointment in myself. But before I could really lament, my father handed me a videocassette with the remainder of the game.

Seconds later I was in front of the TV watching the game unfold. When that point shot found its way to the back of the net I ran about my house yelling with such unbridled elation you'd figure I had scored. To this day, it stands out as one of the clearest memories of my childhood.

Yes, we can thank John Slaney for winning the Gold for Canada that year. But as this was the first the event was broadcast from coast to coast to coast, we have to thank him for engaging the interest of a nation of hockey fans in this truly spectacular event.

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During the early stages of this year's world juniors, TSN did a nice feature on Slaney's goal. Check it out here

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