Following Team USA’s 2-0 upset win over Canada in the gold-medal game at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship on Tuesday, cameras caught the Americans bringing out a large blue can with a Hockey Canada logo and posing with it.
Twitter immediately went bonkers after TSN’s Ryan Rishaug posted the picture and video, calling it classless and disrespectful.
But it actually wasn’t a trash can. It was a barrel. Head coach Nate Leaman explained the barrel before answering questions in his postgame news conference.
“It’s a story that when I was an assistant coach [with USA Hockey at world juniors] in 2007, [head coach] that Ron Ralston brought to our team. [The story is] about crossing the heart of the Sahara Desert; crossing a terrain that’s 500 miles long, that over 1,300 people had perished and the only way that they could figure to cross this part of the Sahara Desert was to put barrels out so that when you got to one barrel, the only thing you could see was the next barrel on the horizon.
“I shared the story with the guys before the tournament, and let them know that we’re not going to talk about the gold medal. All we’re talking about is going one barrel at a time. … It’s just a great image. It was a great way to get through this tough tournament; to just go one barrel at a time, stay in the process, and not get ahead of ourselves.
“We had a barrel in the locker room and on the barrel was the next team we were playing, and that’s all we wanted the guys to focus on: this is the next barrel, this is how we cross the desert.
“We took a selfie in the locker room around the barrel after every win and the boys loved it and like they couldn’t wait for the selfies. Every one of our wins, we have our team around the barrel in the locker room. They got [caught up in the emotion] of the celebration and they wanted to get the barrel on the ice.
“No disrespect to anyone, especially Canada who played a great game today and obviously had a great team. It’s not disrespectful to them. I’m sure every team had something in the tournament that they rallied around and ours was the barrel.”
Leaman also took to Twitter to clarify the barrel.
Just to be transparent. It was barrel on the ice with our team after the game. It was motivation for our team to take the tournament one game at a time. I am sure every team had something of motivation. The barrel was ours. No disrespect to Canada who is a great team.
— Nate Leaman (@CoachLeaman) January 6, 2021