SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. – Broken stick aside, defenceman Noah Dobson says the opportunity to play for Team Canada in the 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation world junior hockey championship in Vancouver and Victoria, B.C., is an experience he will cherish forever.
“It was a dream come true, especially playing on Canadian soil was pretty special,” said Dobson in an interview with the Journal Pioneer on Saturday evening. “When I think about going out there and seeing 17,000 people in red sweaters, it still gives me chills.
“It wasn’t the result we wanted, but overall it was an incredible experience.”
Dobson, the 12th overall selection by the New York Islanders in the 2018 National Hockey League Entry Draft, found himself right in the middle of the action as Canada’s fate was determined. Dobson made a great read in overtime of Canada’s quarter-final game against Finland, jumping up on the play, and he was fed a perfect pass from Cody Glass. As Dobson attempted to one-time the puck into an open net, his stick shattered, Finland went back up the ice and scored to leave the Canadians with a sixth-place finish.
“It was definitely tough to look at and see it all the time,” said Dobson, who turns 19 on Monday. “It was a hockey play; I break my sticks throughout a game (lots), and it just happened at the wrong time.
“It was bad luck, but what can you do now? You just move forward, learn from it and keep getting better.”
Dobson also laughed off a letter to him and photo of a stick from a Finnish company that was posted on social media last week.
“I logged onto social media (Friday) and saw all this about the company,” said Dobson.” I don’t really know if it’s a Troll, but there is so much attention with the world juniors and it being in Canada. It is what it is.
“There is lots of stuff out there on social media, but I got a good laugh out of it.”
The fact Dobson was on the ice in overtime speaks volumes for his play, and the trust the coaching staff had in him.
“I thought I got off to a slow start, but as the tournament went on I thought I was playing really well and got more comfortable out there,” assessed Dobson, who had one goal and a plus-4 rating in five tournament games with Team Canada. “I felt I was playing my best hockey by the end of the tournament.
“Once you got used to the guys and more comfortable with the surroundings, you found your groove.”
Dobson admitted the Canadian dressing room was very emotional following the quarter-final loss.
“You put so much of your heart and soul into the game, and if you get one bounce here or there and that game could have been different,” reasoned the well-spoken and polite Dobson. “We were happy with the effort we put and proud of the way we came together, but we came up on the short end of the stick.
“It is definitely tough, but it is part of the game and you can learn from it and get better from it.”
Dobson was grateful for the opportunity to share the experience with his family as his parents, Andrew and Jenny Dobson, and younger sister, Elly, were in Vancouver.
“Not getting home over the break, it was really nice having my family out there,” said Dobson. “(Hockey Canada) did a good job on days off with us being able to go see our families and see them after games, but obviously on game days it was all business and trying to limit the distractions.
“It was great to have them there and being able to hang out with them.”
Level of play
Dobson, who was a key contributor to the Acadie-Bathurst Titan’s run to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s President Cup and Memorial Cup last year and won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2017 Hlinka Gretzky Cup under-18 tournament, said the world junior championship was the highest level of hockey he has played.
“A lot of those guys are first- or second-round NHL picks, and pretty well all of them have been drafted into the NHL,” said Dobson. “It was a real high-calibre of hockey, and the pace and intensity was really high as well and the world juniors are a pretty big stage. It was really good competition.”
Dobson is currently back home for a few days, and attended the Summerside Western Capitals’ MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League) game against the Amherst Ramblers at Eastlink Arena on Saturday night.
“It’s definitely nice to come home and regroup and get ready for the second half,” said Dobson. “It was a pretty stressful, high-pressured situation in Vancouver.”
Dobson acknowledged how much he appreciated receiving strong support from P.E.I. during the world junior tournament.
“I am thankful to have so many great people on the Island who are supporting me,” said Dobson.” Even here (Saturday), just seeing all the kids lined up it’s great to be back home.
“Without Summerside minor hockey I wouldn’t be where I am. They have been a huge part and it is great to see that support.”
Dobson graciously signed autographs and posed for photos with fans of all ages – young kids to seniors – from the first intermission through until the end of the second period. Dobson was seated at a table just inside the main entrance to Eastlink Arena, and the line stretched around the walking track past the door to the press box.
“He is such a nice young man,” noted Caps fan Anna Mae Barlow of Summerside after meeting Dobson. “We are all so proud of him.”
Caps general manager Pat McIver, who estimated Dobson “must have signed 1,000 autographs,” noted, “(Noah) missed the whole second period of Caps’ game to make sure everyone got an autograph. Summerside and P.E.I. should be proud of this young man.”