Blair living the life of Riley in 2019
This could be a quiz question in a few years when one might ask "who won the Elite League and Spengler Cup championships in the same calendar year?" This man would be Blair Riley.
The Cardiff Devils striker is back after a week of whirlwind in Davos, Switzerland, during the holiday season when he fulfilled a childhood dream of playing for his country and left with a fantastic memory – a winner's medal.
Between that and an Elite League winner medal in his pocket from his time with the Belfast Giants, 2019 turned out to be a very good year for the 34-year-old.
But Riley admits that his late call to Team Canada for the Spengler Cup meant he was prepared for the possibility of not playing at all.
"I was told straight away that there was an injury and because of the numbers, there was no guarantee that I would play so I was fully aware of the situation when I went there, "he said.
"I did not expect the action of the game to be honest and I was more than happy to train and acquire as much Experience as possible.
"I didn't play in the first game and I felt good about it, so I was able to get another day of training and get to know the environment and my teammates. The pace was faster, so I could get used to it too.
"Playing in the second game was special, of course. It was against Davos, the home team, and the atmosphere was passionate about some noisy fans, so it & # 39; # 39; was unique to be able to participate.
HIGHLIGHTS: Team Canada wins the 2019 Spengler Cup
"I would be lying if I said I was not nervous in advance and probably the most nervous in a while. Quite simply being a Canadian hockey player and having the chance to put on the maple leaf jersey is something every kid dreams of.
"Back home, a lot of people are watching and watching and I remember doing it myself when I was a kid, so being able to step on the ice was amazing."
The order came late and with the start of the tournament the day after Christmas, Riley's Christmas plans were thrown out the window when he received the phone call he didn’t get. certainly not expect.
In other words, a quiet Christmas with a few teammates, and then preparing for the busy holiday season with the Devils has become something unexpected.
He said, "After the game on the 22nd, when we played at Manchester Storm, Shane Doan, the assistant general manager of Team Canada called me while we were getting ready for the party. Team Christmas.
"I had to say yes or no right away and I spoke to the trainer, Andrew Lord, to explain the situation to him.
"I then chatted with Todd Kelman and they were both excited for me and encouraging for this opportunity, so I was grateful, knowing that I would be away for four important games during the period celebrations.
"From there my girlfriend and I were on a flight the next day, traveling most of the day going first to Zurich, then spending the night there in Davos for the day before Christmas, where I met the team and had a quick practice.
"The original plans for Christmas certainly had to be quieter than what had happened and I did not expect this curve.
"I didn't have time to get excited, that was how fast it was all. It was unique in many ways and a cool place to spending the holidays, but also surreal. ”
The Canadians came out on top for the fourth time in five years, beating Czech Republic team HC Ocelari Trinec in the final 4-0.
They started the campaign against the same side, winning 4-1 – the match for which Riley was struck out – but he was part of the team that beat HC Davos hosts 5-1.
Winning their group means that they avoided the quarterfinals and headed straight for the last four, where they blanked the Finnish side TPS Turku 6-0 before claiming a place in the final, where they claimed the trophy.
Being part of the winning team crowned an unforgettable experience for Riley as he reflected on what turned into a dream week for him.
And he ranked it very high in his own personal achievements, made his family in Canada more special was able to watch too.
He said: "Winning the Spengler Cup must be very close to the top for me in my career. It is different because you have only been with the group for about a week . It was really special and whenever you can win a trophy, it is something that you will certainly remember.
"I was fortunate to have so many friends and relatives who followed me too much at home because the matches were broadcast on TSN, so they all got to watch.
"The way the team had progressed in the first three games, we were big favorites and it was a quality group that Sean Burke and Shane Doan had brought together.
"There was a lot of talent and you never know in a single match, the different variables such as a hot goalkeeper, penalty issues, injuries and as we all know, a lot of things can happen.
"The group was confident and we had the advantage of having played a game less than Trinec so I think fatigue ended up being a factor for them.
"We rested on our side and everything was going to a good night for Canada and the boys succeeded and did the job after a tight first period.
"As for being there, I have a lot of good photos and videos and memories that I will cherish for a long time.
"Because it was not planned, it made New Years and the celebrations all come together and it was a great experience for me."