Travis Belohrad is biting his nails this week.
The 19-year-old, Chilliwack Bruins forward is hoping, praying, pleading with the gods for Canada’s hockey team to lose the Olympics.
Not exactly something Chilliwack – a Canadian, hockey-loving town – wants to hear from one of its young guns.
But if you were in Belohrad’s position, you may be doing the exact same thing.
The kid can’t possibly bear any more ribbing in the locker room than he already has since joining the team in September.
Belohrad, you see, was born and raised in Superior, Colorado. He is the only American on the Bruins roster.
Like many of his teammates, he’s been skating on the ice ever since he was in diapers, and has worked his way up through the hockey ranks to where he is today.
But still, his place of origin seems to rank much higher than his skill in the locker room. He’s been called a yank, a dumb American, and pretty much any other slang term that bashes his homeland.
“I get it all the time,” he said. “Pretty much every day I’m hearing it.”
When Belohrad first started with the Bruins, he silently took the jabs from his new teammates, not daring to punch back.
“I didn’t want to come in as the cocky American,” he said.
But last month, when Canada lost to the United States in the 2010 IIHF World Junior Hockey Tournament, it was his turn.
Early on in the competition, when Canada beat the Americans in a shootout, Belohrad’s teammates wasted no time rubbing it in his face, pointing out that “his” team always finished second to Canada, that they never won gold, always choked.
And yet, even with the loss, Belohrad was confident that his country had a team that couldn’t be beat this year – not even by the beloved Canadians. So, he whipped out his wallet and challenged his teammates, much to their amusement.
Belohrad got the last laugh.
“After that first game, I knew that [the U.S.] were a quick team, that they had the skill and speed, and that Canada was having a hard time keeping up with them,” he said. “I had faith in them all along … the next day, I went into the locker room and asked the guys who won the game, and made it known whose country had the better team.
“But I didn’t go at them for too long, because I was pretty sure that half the team would be coming after me in practice.”
The taunts in the locker room somewhat simmered, but now that the Olympics are on, they’re back full force.
Belohrad doesn’t have the same confidence in the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team that he had in the junior team, however, but he’ll be just as happy with any team beating out Canada for that top gold medal spot.
“As long as Canada doesn’t win, I’ll be okay in the locker room,” he said, rooting for Team Russia, led by Belohrad-favourite Alexander Ovechkin.
Belohrad knows that taunts are just part of the family dynamic of the team, like brotherly love.
“I don’t take it seriously, we’re just a group of guys messing around,” he said. “We’re here to play hockey, we’re here to do a job and it doesn’t matter where we come from.”
But still, he’d sure love being the taunter and not the tauntee.