'This is our house'photo_1308094_resize_article.jpg

Canadian Press photo
Canadian fans cheer for their team during IIHF World Junior Championship play.

Published on January 5th, 2011

The Canadian Press Canadian invasion of Buffalo nears golden peak at world junior hockey championship

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Midway through Canada’s semifinal romp over the host United States, the ebullient mass of Canadian fans papering over HSBC Arena in red began chanting, “This is our house!”

And no one could argue with them.

Buffalo may be the host of the 2011 world junior hockey championship, but in every measure that matters, this has been a home tournament for Canada.

Organizers have said that Canadians have bought about two-thirds of the event’s tickets, and that figure seems conservative given the dominant presence red-and-white clad fans have been at the rink, at the city’s downtown bars, and in local hotels.

The hockey-loving Canadians from just over the border have effectively declared a de facto annexation of the rink and they’re hoping for a golden peak in Wednesday’s gold-medal match with Russia (TSN, 7:30 p.m. ET).

“It’s Buffalo, Ontario,” said a Canadian who identified himself only as Brian. “That’s all I can say about that.”

The fans and their money have been well received in the economically depressed area, with bars and restaurants seeing dramatic increases in business thanks to the Canadian invasion.

Most of the back and forth with American hockey supporters has been good natured, too, but some have been irked by the way some Canadians have acted like they own the place.

“I would cheer for Afghanistan over Canada, OK?” said one American fan. “Anybody but Canada.”

Still, the atmosphere at the arena, particularly for Canada games, has been tremendous, much like it was at last year’s tournament in Regina and Saskatoon.

“Definitely,” said Canadian defenceman Jared Cowen. “I think the fans here are just as good as in Saskatoon, if not better. I don’t think it really matters that we’re in the States right now.

“If you looked out in the crowd (during Monday’s semifinal), you didn’t see a lot of American flags or jerseys, it was all red and it was great to see. It’s been huge. (Monday) was just unbelievable with how loud they were and the support. It gives you so much energy.”

Canadian head coach Dave Cameron agreed.

“That atmosphere is great, because one of your challenges as a coach is to bring emotion to your team and to generate emotion you have to be emotional,” he said. “So when the fans bring that it’s just tremendous.”

The Americans players seemed resigned to playing a road game at home. Jerry D’Amigo called the situation “weird” while fellow forward Chris Brown said, “you kind of have to feed off the energy, even though it’s against you.”

That, however, is easier said than done.

Russian forward Yevgeni Kuznetsov believes having a passionate crowd behind them makes the Canadians the favourites, while defenceman Nikita Pivtsakin says it’s up to the players to silence the fans.

“I already adjusted to the enemy crowd, I really like the atmosphere,” said Pivtsakin. “It motivates us to score a goal just to make the crowd silent.

“It just gives us extra motivation.”