Five days after celebrating a world junior hockey title with his Canadian teammates, Cal Foote admits he’s still yet to grasp the full gravity of the accomplishment.
Following practise with his Kelowna Rockets’ teammates on Wednesday morning, the 19-year-old defenceman talked about the unquestionable highlight of his career to date.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Foote said of winning the gold medal. “To be honest, it still doesn’t really feel real, but as time goes on, I’m sure it will.”
Foote and Rockets’ teammate Dillon Dube were integral parts of Canada’s run to gold in Buffalo, culminating with a 3-1 victory over Sweden in Friday’s championship game.
Dube, who served as team captain for the Canadians, was battling an illness and wasn’t at Rockets’ practise Wednesday.
Dube and Foote will both be honoured during a special ceremony prior to tonight’s game at Prospera Place between the Rockets and Spokane Chiefs.
Foote said winning a world junior title with his teammate and friend gives the gold medal added meaning.
“To see (Dillon) become team captain and lead Canada was pretty special,” Foote said of Dube, who was the first Rockets’ player ever to be named captain of Team Canada. “When it was announced he was captain, it gave me chills and made me so excited, because obviously he’s a great friend of mine.”
Foote, who grew up in Engelwood, Colorado, has dual Canadian-U.S. citizenship but has always felt a special affinity to Canadian hockey.
Foote’s parents are both Canadian-born while his dad, Adam Foote, won gold with Team Canada at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
From an early age, pulling on the Maple Leaf at the world juniors was a moment Foote admits he often dreamed about.
“I was always watching as a little boy, to be able to play in that tournament, to have the opportunity that Hockey Canada gave me, I’m very thankful and it’s a dream come true.”
Foote registered three assists at the tournament, but perhaps his defining moment came in the round robin game against Finland when he made a goal-saving dive into the crease and swatted the puck away from behind Canadian netminder Carter Hart.
“I think that was just pure instinct,” Foote said of his highlight-worthy play. “Thinking back, I just saw the puck and just tried to swipe it away, and good thing I got pretty lucky.”
As for the support Team Canada received from their compatriots during the tournament, particularly in the gold medal game, Foote said it was second to none.
“As the games went on and tournament went on, more and more Canadian fans were there,” said Foote. “The last game definitely felt like it was in Canada, a full sea of red, crazy loud and it was an awesome experience.”
While Foote will be in the lineup for tonight’s game, the Rockets said Dube’s status will be a game-time decision.
Face off at Prospera Place is 7:05 p.m.