Kitchener Ontario's Don Awrey was a surprise selection to many, including Don
himself. He called being named to the inaugural Team Canada as the highlight of
the tournament for him.
Awrey was well respected among his peers as a very dependable rearguard in
the National Hockey League, yet no one ever confused him with the world's elite
rearguards. Awrey made the team due to injuries along the Canadian blueline,
most notably to Awrey's Boston Bruin teammate Bobby Orr and to Montreal standout
Jacques Laperriere. Awrey is also quick to point out that another Boston Bruin,
Dallas Smith, likely would have made the team over him had he not declined his
invitation due to off-season farming commitments.
"That was probably the greatest
thrill for me. To be chosen to play for your country is a great honour. When I
got the call, the poor guy who asked me if I wanted to play on the team didn't
even get the question out of his mouth when I said ´sure, when do I report ? ´
That's how bad I wanted to play in the series. "
Awrey and Rod Seiling developed an early chemistry
together in training camp.
The duo's performance earned them an opening night roster spot - a great honor
for a defensive specialist. That first game was one of the most damning in
Canadian hockey history, however, as the Soviets unthinkably manhandled might
Team Canada 7-3. The Soviets made even Canada's best players look like practice
pylons, and Awrey was victimized directly on the first Soviet goal of the game.
Evgeny Zimin got half a step on the three time Stanley Cup champion, and stopped
the Canadian momentum gained early in the game.
"Rod and I had a terrific training camp," said the classic and
classy blueliner. "But maybe things didn't work out in the first game. We
were two defensive specialists playing together."
Awrey was yanked from the lineup after the terrible game one, and returned
for only one other game - the equally dreadful game 4 in Vancouver. The game is
of course remembered for the Vancouver fans booing their own Team Canada off the
ice after losing 5-3.
Awrey accompanied the team to Russia, but did not play in any of the four
Moscow games. Awrey released a lot of his frustrations against the unsuspecting
Swedes in a 2 game exhibition series played in Sweden that was intended to give
the NHL pros a short opportunity to get used to the larger international playing
surface. There was quite an outcry from Swedish fans and journalists and even
the Canadian embassy regarding Canada's physical play and mean disposition.
However that trip to Stockholm helped Canada's NHLers become a true team.
"We weren't prepared for the kind of team we had to face. Just because
you put 35 guys on the ice, it doesn't make a team. A team is something that
plays for a number of games, a number of months. The Russians had been preparing
for this for I don't know how long," Awrey explained.
"Fortunately, we came together when we went to Sweden [during a break in
the series], and then went to Moscow. If we had played 20 games together [before
the series], it would have been an even better team.
Also See: Jay Moran interviews Don