GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Bill Bram has been watching his daughter Bailey and her friend Jocelyne Larocque play hockey since they were squirts (in his words), but nothing prepared him for what he took in Friday night.
Father, coach, babysitter and friend, Bram was a mix of emotions watching two women he taught the game of hockey as young girls growing up in Ste. Anne. The difference on this night was they weren’t playing in his backyard or at the hometown rink. They were in Team Canada jerseys fighting for spots on the nation’s Olympic roster.
"We didn’t have enough kids in Ste. Anne to have to say no to any kids, so when girls showed up and wanted to play we gave them an opportunity," said Bram. "Jocelyne and Bailey were always smart players and they learned to play the game the right way. They’ve worked so hard to get here. This is quite a night for our little town. And half of us are here together to watch them. This is a very special night for all of us."
On the ice things weren’t so special, as Canada watched a first-period 1-0 lead melt away, allowing four unanswered goals in a 4-1 loss to Team USA.
The loss came on the night of head coach Kevin Dineen’s debut, but he was thinking more big-picture than little following the game.
"I just told our team I was focused on what they were doing more than the other team. Our heartbeat came and went. That’s something we’ll try to get to be a little more consistent going forward," said Dineen. "We have some skill and I think we have a good group. The other team was pretty good (Friday)."
The game ended with a line brawl and Larocque found herself right in the middle of the action, grabbing an Team USA player and flipping her to the ice.
"We’ve played each other four times already this winter and still have two more games against them. They wanted to fight and you could tell the entire last shift that was what they were after," said Larocque. "We stood up for ourselves. It’s just part of hockey sometimes."
Bill Bram and 40 friends and relatives populated a section of the Ralph Engelstad Arena Friday night, and the sight of two of his former charges down on the ice had him looking back and forward all at once.
"This brings back a lot of memories, but I’m hoping we’re able to watch them create bigger ones at the Olympics," said Bram. "We’ve booked all our tickets to Sochi. The girls are in the homestretch to make the team and we’re hoping they both get good news. I’ve been to the last two world championships to watch Scruff (Bailey’s nickname). Her and Jocelyne are such good friends. We used to babysit Jocelyne when she was little. She’s like family. There’s nothing like looking down and seeing your family wearing a Team Canada jersey. To me, this is what hockey is all about."
Canada took a 1-0 lead on Haley Irwin’s first-period goal but let the Americans back in the game with 11 seconds left in the first period, as Monique Lamoureux whipped a shot home from just off the top of the crease.
The second period was a disaster as Brianna Decker, Hilary Knight and Jocelynne Lamoureux all beat Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados.
Bailey Bram said she was disappointed with the way she and her team played in front of so many Canadian supporters.
"That wasn’t our best game, that’s for sure," said Bram. "We’ll have to look at this game and figure out a way to improve. I looked up in the warmup and saw my family. I knew where they were but I got that out of the way before the game so it wouldn’t be a distraction. It was great to see them in the arena and to feel them watching me."
The Lamoureux sisters both starred at the University of North Dakota and were born and raised in Grand Forks. The hometown crowd gushed when they were introduced prior to the game and then unloaded roaring approval with the announcement of each of their goals.
Canada held out two of its top players, forwards Marie-Phillip Poulin and Hayley Wickenheiser, due to undisclosed injuries.
Hockey Canada also announced following Friday’s game they will release the final roster for the Olympic team Monday morning at 10 a.m.