When Dylan Guenther scored his second goal of the game at 6:22 of overtime to give Canada a 3-2 victory over Czechia to claim the International Ice Hockey Federation’s (IIHF) World Junior Championship, the roof nearly blew off the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, N.S., on the evening of Jan. 5 — and Joseph Jr. Kaludjak and his family from Rankin Inlet were right in the middle of it.
Kaludjak, 47, said he’s been a big fan of junior hockey since he was just 10 years old and he’d always dreamed of one day attending the world juniors in person.
He said when he, his wife, Rachel, and their two children, Loli and Leo, entered their names in the IIHF’s priority draw — a lottery — for the chance to buy tournament tickets months before the event began — and Loli’s name was drawn — they just knew they had to go.
“We had been trying for awhile now and we finally got lucky with those lottery tickets,” said Kaludjak.
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us. We went to most of the games and had a total blast.
“We got four gold medal tickets and all got to go to the big game.”
Kaludjak said he found Halifax to be a nice city with friendly people.
He said inside the Scotiabank Centre was “crazy loud” during games Team Canada played.
“I got caught up in all the excitement, cheering all out.
“It’s way better to see the games in-person than on TV. You can feel the whole crowd when everyone’s cheering.”
Kaludjak is a Toronto Maple Leafs fan when it comes to NHL hockey, and was maybe a bit disappointed that the Leafs didn’t have a single prospect in this year’s championship.
But, his whole family was cheering on Canada’s Connor Bedard and Kaludjak said he was just incredible to watch during the tourney.
“He’s something else, man.
“This was an experience I’ll never forget. I watched him (Bedard) score that overtime goal live (against Slovakia in the quarterfinals).
“I don’t even remember when I got to the glass when Canada scored (the overtime winner in the championship game), but I know I was the first to get there when Canada scored. And I was wearing a goalie mask too.
“It was unreal and so much fun. This has been our dream our whole lives as big hockey fans. If I ever have another chance to go, I will for sure.”