Brett Howden was able to live out a dream over the past month.
The Moose Jaw Warriors captain cracked the Canadian national junior team roster in early December and then helped Canada skate to a 3-1 win over Sweden in the gold medal game at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship last Friday.
“That was the biggest game I’ve ever played,” said Howden on the gold medal game. “It was a great game, could have gone either way, teams played right until the end and for us to get that goal in the last minute-and-a-half was pretty special, it’s hard to put into words.”
It was seven years earlier that Howden was in the stands when his brother Quinton lost the gold medal game to Russia in the same arena. Howden said to be able to come out on top and hear the Canadian anthem played to end the tournament was a very special feeling.
“You just get chills thinking about it,” he said. “I remember being in that exact building when Quinton lost against the Russians, I just remember being crushed as a little kid and I could see how sad he was and the rest of the team, so to win it there with those memories in the back of my mind, it was pretty amazing.”
Howden put together a stellar tournament for Canada. Playing in a bottom-six role, the Oakbank, MB product was still able to score three times in seven games and finished with seven points.
He said he excepted the type of role that he was going to have to play to make the team and thrived in it.
“I just tried to do what I could do best and not try to stay safe, I got out of my comfort zone and tried things that I’m not use to, trying to play harder and be a difference maker out there,” said Howden.
“The guys that make the team are willing to accept any role and adapt to it and do it the best they can, that’s why Canada is always a winning team because they have guys that are willing to play different roles and that’s what we had, we had a group of guys that wanted to win, doing anything they would to help the team.”
Canada was a tight knit group that got stronger as the tournament went on. Howden said they took a lot from the outdoor game at New Era Field, even though that was their only loss of the tournament.
“It was a crazy day, probably the coolest thing that I’ve ever done just from the atmosphere with the crowd and then in the second it started snowing and you couldn’t even see the puck on the ice at times,” he said.
“I honestly think that game was a big turnaround for us, kept us honest, we let off a bit in that game, but it was good that it happened at that point in the tournament, so that really helped us shape up our game.”
Howden returned to Moose Jaw on Thursday and rejoined the Warriors on the ice for practice. He’ll be back in the lineup when the team hosts the Edmonton Oil Kings on Friday night.
Howden said he’s ready to take his game to another level in Moose Jaw now.
“I learned a lot from coach Dom Ducharme, and Tim as well, we learned lots every day and I’m going to try to bring that back here as much as I can, just little things on the ice and off the ice, so I’m going to try to bring that experience here,” he said.
Special Moment for Howden Brothers
Brett Howden was able to get one up on his older brother Quinton when he won gold at the World Juniors, which is something Quinton wasn’t able to accomplish, walking with a silver and bronze in his two trips.
However, Quinton took the sibling rivalry to another level on Thursday when he was named to the Canadian men’s Olympic team for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
“When I won the gold medal, I thought I had him for a little bit and then he goes and one ups me again,” said Brett.
Brett was actually able to play a part in his brother finding out about his Olympic roster spot.
“It was pretty special actually, the Hockey Canada guys called me and told me before they told him and we went on a conference call and we made it seem like it was just me and him talking, just a casual chat, and then I told him that he made the team,” said Howden. “When I told him, he didn’t believe me, he thought I was playing around with him and he was kind of mad about it, but then they came on and told him the truth and he was pretty stunned.”
The men’s tournament at the Winter Olympics opens on Feb. 14.