KEITH Aulie, captain of the Brandon Wheat Kings and key penalty-killer for Canada's 2009 world champion junior hockey team, returned to Manitoba on Tuesday with a gold medal around his neck and grin on his face.
The 19-year-old, in his fourth Western Hockey League season in Brandon, stepped off a plane in Winnipeg from Ottawa on Tuesday afternoon to thunderous applause when he produced his gold medal.
"As long as you can remember as a kid, you just dreamed of playing for your country, playing for Canada, and winning the gold medal, that's the biggest thing," said the 6-6, 222-pound Aulie, a native of Rouleau, Sask. (40 kilometres southwest of Regina). "You watch it on TV all the time growing up, you hear all the stories from past years and you just want to be part of that tradition... It was such an unbelievable experience, it's one that I will remember forever."
Goaltender Chet Pickard of Winnipeg, who backed up starter Dustin Tokarski, headed to Erie, Pa. from Ottawa to visit friends and will rejoin the Tri-City Americans of the WHL later this week.
Aulie was paired with 6-7 Tyler Myers of the Kelowna Rockets on defence, and the two earned the nickname 'the twin towers.' They played big roles on Canada's penalty-killing units, especially in the second period of the final when Canada took four straight penalties, leaving Sweden 0-for-7 on the power play.
"I think we (Canada) have shown how good we can be consistently, five gold medals in a row, that's hard to top," said Aulie, who was a 2007 fourth-round draft pick of the Calgary Flames.
He said the team received huge support from across the country. "It was unbelievable, just the pride Canada has in the game and how much people care, it's just crazy."
Aulie will always be known by those closest to him for his family's real "miracle on ice" three years ago. Aulie saved his father Bill's life, pulling him from the frigid waters of a dugout on the family farm near Rouleau on Dec. 22, 2005. Bill was in a tractor clearing snow from the ice on the dugout preparing for the family's annual holiday shinny game when the ice suddenly gave way and the tractor sank in seconds.
Fortunately, Keith was watching and was about to dive in when he saw his dad's hand come up through the opening in the ice. The 16-year-old Keith, already a strapping 6-6, pulled his dad out and then carried him across the yard to the house.
"I don't think about that incident as much as I used to but being reminded of it, it came up again in this tournament and I was telling the story quite a few times again and just thinking back, what a great experience it was to save my dad's life, it's a good thought."