Manitoba

Team Canada's golden goalie returns home to Winnipeg

Sporting his gold medal, Winnipeg's own Joel Hofer touched down at Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport Monday.

Joel Hofer, 19, named All-Star, top goaltender at IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships

Team Canada goaltender Joel Hofer landed in Winnipeg Monday evening, after capturing a gold medal at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in the Czech Republic. (Warren Kay/CBC)

One of the two Manitoban hockey players who won a gold medal at the World Junior Hockey Championships arrived home Monday evening.

Sporting his gold medal, Winnipeg's own Joel Hofer touched down at Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport Monday.

"It's a huge honour to be part of the World Juniors, and then obviously to win the gold medal with the team I was a part of — it's pretty special," Hofer told reporters at the airport.

The six-foot five-inch 19-year-old St. Louis Blues prospect has had a whirlwind few months.

In the fall, Hofer was off Hockey Canada's radar completely. But his success with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League this season was enough to earn an invite to try out for the World Junior team.

He made the cut and packed his bags for the Czech Republic, where he would play a monumental role in Canada's golden run.

Hofer was a huge part of Canada's gold medal finish. He had a 1.30 goals against average and stopped nearly 95 per cent of the shots he faced, when the tournament was over. (Warren Kay/CBC)

"My mindset was just that, if I got the opportunity, just to make the most of it," Hofer said. "It's obviously a once in a lifetime opportunity and I think that I made the most of it."

Hofer got his chance to play during Canada's second game of the tournament, when subbed in for goalie Nico Daws in the second period against Russia.

Canada wound up suffering their worst loss ever at the World Juniors, getting shutout 6-0. But Hofer didn't look back.

He helped lead Canada to the championship final, where they faced Russia once again.

"That was definitely the biggest game of my life," Hofer said Monday.

It was a wild final, that saw Canada down 3-1 in the third period. But Canada came back to win 4-3, after scoring three unanswered goals in the final 11 minutes of play.

"After [the 6-0 loss], we wanted revenge on them," Hofer said. "I'm glad we got the revenge, and it turned out to be a really good game, and we got the gold out it."

Hofer celebrates after defeating Russia 4-3 in the gold medal game at the World Junior Hockey Championships last Sunday. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

The young netminder walked away with more than just the medal.

Hofer finished the World Juniors with a 1.30 goals against average, and saved nearly 95 per cent of the shots he faced, which was good enough for him to be named a tournament All-Star, and the tournament's top goaltender.

Despite the victory and accolades, Hofer said he's "definitely excited to be home."

His family was with him overseas and will be returning tomorrow, he told reporters.

Hofer looks forward to spending time with them before flying back to Portland on Friday.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicholas Frew is an online reporter with CBC Edmonton who focuses mainly on data-driven stories. Hailing from Newfoundland and Labrador, Frew moved to Halifax to attend journalism school. He has previously worked for CBC newsrooms in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Before joining CBC, he interned at the Winnipeg Free Press. You can reach him at nick.frew@cbc.ca.

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