The World Junior Championship in Buffalo has had it’s emotional ups and downs but the entertainment has been there game in and game out. All of our Canadian Forces guests would agree, even though we lost the game, that the Canada vs Sweden match on New Year’s eve was the best action on ice to date with only the Canada Russia game giving it a run for it’s money.
Our 10 seats in the lower bowl and the upper level box were both filled and overfilled with enthusiastic fans. Some soldiers, however, brought themselves to the game.
Sgt. Gerald Lefebvre managed to get himself to the HSBC Arena on the 31st of December, buying one of the last tickets online and coming all the way from Trenton to catch the action. Sgt. Lefebvre has been in the Forces for 18 years of service. Currently he is posted with TN-EME Squadron, having recently returned from overseas this past November.
Sgt. Lefebvre has served with Reservist Steve Gardiner, a member of our Forces mentioned in one of our last posts, starting in 2008. Steve Gardiner helped Gerald get from Hamilton to Buffalo after driving to the Steel Town from Trenton. Having served together overseas helping each other at home is second nature.
Unfortunately for Sgt. Lefebvre the last tickets were less than desirable. His ticket landed him beside a wall and behind the net obstructed by the safety screening. Not at all a seat befitting a hero and member of Canada’s Armed Forces. As far as Canadian Heroes was concerned it wasn’t good enough.
We airlifted Gerald from his trench seat and brought him onboard with our other veterans in the Canadian Heroes box at HSBC Arena in Buffalo.
“It was fantastic. I was on the edge of my seat,” said Sgt. Lefebvre.
“It’s one of those things, it’s almost a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he added.
“It was awesome!”
Gerald also wanted Canadians to know the results of their efforts abroad as part of the Afghan mission.
“They (Canadian Armed Forces) are doing really good work over there. Canadians have helped bring a better way of life (for Afghans citizens),” said Lefebvre.
“I’ve noticed a huge improvement. Shops are open, kids are out playing. We are doing some good,” added Lefebvre.
One of the only positives drawn from the Sweden loss was the potential for an additional Canada game. One more chance to show our Canadian Forces how much they matter and how much we appreciate all that they do for us.
That next chance to host our vets came in the form of the Canada vs Swiss game on Jan. 2. The Canadian juniors started slowly but came on a bit late in the second, not disappointing our heroes watching the game in person.
As with every game, our seats were all filled to capacity with avid hockey fans, all rooting for our country.
This time out Canadian Heroes was fortunate enough to be able to bring Corporal Shaun Arsenault of 430 Squadron to the game. He has been involved in the Afghan mission since July 12th 2010 and is returning to active duty overseas as of January 5th. His first tour in Afghanistan is slated to end April 17th, finishing off his 9 month tour.
Cpl. Arsenault ended up at the game thanks to our Canadian Heroes Facebook group. His wife Kimberlee saw the announcement online for free tickets and she emailed right away. It was our pleasure to bring Cpl. Arsenault and his wife out to see our Juniors play the Swiss team.
“This is amazing,” said Arsenault.
“I never miss the Juniors on TV, but to see them in person, and with (other Canadian Forces personnel), is great. Its like pulling teeth to get tickets to these games,” he added.
Arsenault is passionate about hockey and the progress the Canadian Forces have made in Afghanistan.
“What I’ve been seeing is that we are giving the locals (Afghan citizens) work. We are paying them (for that work). Over there, that (wages) is very valuable,” added Arsenault.
“We’ve been pushing the Taliban back and giving the locals a chance to rebuild,” he said.
Our soldiers are providing the basic freedoms that we take for granted in Canada every day. Arsenault went on to say that the support from home is half of the battle.
“The support that we see daily (from Canada) is absolutely amazing. That is what is keeping the soldiers alive,” said Arsenault.
Canadian Heroes plans to keep the support coming. Our Junior team did their part on the ice to keep Canadian spirits high.
Our young guns starting firing a little better in the third period by finally taking their first lead of the game and quickly increasing that lead to two goals. They closed the game out with an empty net goal to put the final score at 4 to 1 for Canada.
Canada and the U.S. Will face off in the semi finals on Jan. 3, at 7:30 pm at the HSBC Arena in Buffalo to determine who gets in to the gold medal game on Jan. 5. and as always we will take as many of our heroes with us as possible. To all Canadian soldiers and juniors, we are proud of what you do.