According to Hockey Canada’s media guide for this year’s World Junior team, defenseman Philippe Myers plays the piano. You ask him about it and you find out that, like Ferris Bueller, he never had a lesson. Can’t read music a lick. When he’s bored, he just listens to songs on YouTube and plays by ear.
Of course he does. Myers is already the only Maritime-born piano player on the team and he’s also the tallest and heaviest on the roster. And in keeping with his reliance on self, his path to this team, and likely the NHL, has been more unique than anyone else on the Canadian roster.
Let’s start with junior hockey. Fifty-seven players were selected before he was in the 2014 Quebec League draft. He went 38 spots after Team Canada and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies defense partner Jeremy Lauzon and 36 spots after Thomas Chabot, who is his defense partner on Team Canada. Two years later at the NHL draft in Philadelphia, 211 players were taken and none of them was named Philippe Myers. Every time Myers refreshed his computer that day, he was hopeful that he’d see his name. Ten of Myers’ teammates on the Canadian team went in that draft, including four in the first round.
If it all seems a little overwhelming for Myers to be standing tall among the best teenagers in the world 18 months later, it certainly isn’t showing. Myers is logging big minutes along with Chabot on the first defense pairing and his smooth skating, poise in his end and passing abilities have been on full display. Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall, who signed Myers to an entry-level contract after having his socks blown off by Myers in a free-agent tryout in 2015, is currently trying to figure out how the heck a 6-foot-5, right-shot defenseman went undrafted. A lot of people are.
“I had a pretty good year when I was 16, but when I was 17 I was battling through injuries a lot and I had no confidence,” Myers said. “I didn’t have a good season at all and when I didn’t get drafted, it was just motivation to work hard and I think that helped me a lot to get stronger and more mobile and flexible and all that stuff.”
After the draft, the Calgary Flames invited Myers to their development camp, but never got around to sending him an invitation to main camp. Through that summer the Flyers showed the most interest in him, so Myers decided to go there. “I went there and I saw all the guys you see on TV, (Claude) Giroux and (Jakub) Voracek and all that,” Myers said, “and I was able to see that I could play at that level and it just gave me a lot of confidence. I thought I had a really good showing in the first scrimmage with all the rookies and they picked three or four guys to go and scrimmage with the veterans and I was one of them. All of them were first-round picks and I was kind of shocked and then I had a good showing there, too and they offered me a contract. It was fun.”
Buoyed by his contract and renewed confidence, Myers went back to Rouyn-Noranda last season and led his team to a league championship and a berth in the Memorial Cup. He has picked up this season where he left off and his play at the WJC has been outstanding. The son of a bilingual mother and Anglophone father in Moncton, Myers attended school in French, but feels comfortable in both languages.
“When we’re all together at home, we speak English,” Myers said. “When I’m with my mom, we speak French and bad English.”
THIS IS STRANGE Incoming Hockey Canada president Scott Smith addressed some of the attendance problems at this year’s World Junior Championship on Thursday, but even he must be having a hard time explaining why Toronto in particular seems so less excited about this event than it was in 2015.
Something very strange is happening here. When the event was held two years ago in Toronto, there were 10 preliminary-round games, none of which included Canada, who was playing in the group that was competing in Montreal. Those games, which involved Sweden, Russia, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Denmark, drew an average of 13,500 spectators per game.
This time around, Canada is in the Toronto group, along with world powers USA and Russia as well as Slovakia and Latvia. The seven games going into Thursday night’s game between Latvia and Slovakia have drawn an average of just 11,506 – and that includes the three games in which Canada has played. What makes things stranger is that Thursday’s game between USA and Russia drew 13,759 fans, which was more than showed up for Canada’s game later that day against Latvia and the game against Slovakia.
Could it be that Toronto fans, knowing this time around that they wouldn’t be seeing the medal-round games, have decided to not attend the Canada games? Or is it a case of being tired of having to pay top dollar to see junior hockey. Probably a bit of both, but it’s a strange phenomenon, nonetheless.