Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Team Russia forward Artemi Panarin (27) scores the game winning goal on Team Canada goaltender Mark Visentin (30) as defenceman Simon Despres (3) defends during third period Gold medal game at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in Buffalo, N.Y. on Wednesday January 5, 2011. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press/Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)
Team Russia forward Artemi Panarin (27) scores the game winning goal on Team Canada goaltender Mark Visentin (30) as defenceman Simon Despres (3) defends during third period Gold medal game at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in Buffalo, N.Y. on Wednesday January 5, 2011. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press/Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

ROY MACGREGOR

A Canadian goaltender's lesson in life Add to ...

Perhaps you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but just maybe this old dog has something to teach a few people.

We will meet Sheba later.

But let us begin around midnight Wednesday on the Peace Bridge leading from Buffalo, N.Y., to Fort Erie, Ont. Dan Visentin, a high school math teacher, is driving. His wife, Liz, also a teacher, is in the car, as are his parents Italo and Rita Visentin.

More related to this story

Italo Visentin knows something about dreams. More than a half century ago he and Rita came from Italy to nearby Niagara Falls with no idea what would happen to them in this strange new country where they didn't even speak the language. Yet it all worked out wonderfully. He became a crane operator; their children excelled in school and life; retirement gave them time to spend with grandchildren - and they had just witnessed one of them have a dream shattered.

Mark Visentin, who turned 18 only last August, was in goal for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship when the unimaginable happened. Canada was ahead 3-0 heading into the third period of the gold medal game and seemed on cruise to avenge the championship lost to the Americans last year in Saskatoon. The young Canadians had already effortlessly dispatched this year's Americans 4-1 and seemed to be doing the same to the Russians - only to have Russia score two goals in 13 seconds, tie the game in less than five minutes and storm on to a stunning 5-3 victory.

Even without the radio on, everyone in the car knew what was being said: the greatest collapse ever …the team had choked…the goalie was the goat. They hoped that Mark, travelling behind in another car with his girlfriend Harmony, didn't have his radio on. He didn't.

"How ya doin' tonight?" the border guard asked as Dan Visentin handed over the four passports.

"Depressed," Mr. Visentin answered.

The guard, flicking through the passports, paused and looked up, surprised.

"Oh shit," he said, "you're a Visentin."

"I'm the father."

The guard handed back he passports. "Don't worry," he said. "You have a great kid there - you got to be proud of him."

"We are."

"He's going to be a great goalie one day."

"We know."

Mark Visentin made it through at another border booth and drove slowly to his parents home in little Waterdown. No radio. Hardly any words. What was there to say?

He had already said what he thought he had to say. He had sobbed on the ice and wept in the dressing room - no different from any of the other shattered players - and when Andre Brin, Hockey Canada's media person at the tournament, tentatively asked if anyone was ready to meet the media, Mark Visentin volunteered immediately.

"I'll come out," he told Mr. Brin.

A lot of goaltenders would have refused. Some of the gathered media reacted with surprise when the black curtain split open and out stepped the Canadian goaltender of record, eyes clear, head held high, and prepared to talk as long as there were questions.

"I like to get stuff done and not leave it," he says.

He put no blame on the defence that at times let him down, no blame on the forwards who had their own breakdowns. He took full responsibility.

"I'm not the guy who blames his team," he says. "You really wish you could have provided a couple of saves when they were needed but I didn't. They kind of took it to us."

He had felt the tide turning, as coach Dave Cameron later put it. He watched the "spark" go into the Russians and knew that it had gone out of his own team. "We pushed the panic button a bit," he says. "We tried to get back but…."

He knew he could talk forever and the score would never change. "No one to blame but me," he says. "I try to make myself accountable for what happens."

Single page

In the know

Most popular videos »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular