Canuck Tyler O'Neill before Premier 12 opener: "We are Canada"

 OF TYLER O’NEILL (MAPLE RIDGE, BC), 20, puts into words what it means to play for CANADA and he does so more eloquently than players twice his age. PHOTO: ALEXIS BRUDNICKI.

OF TYLER O’NEILL (MAPLE RIDGE, BC), 20, puts into words what it means to play for CANADA and he does so more eloquently than players twice his age. PHOTO: ALEXIS BRUDNICKI.

By Tyler O’Neill
TAICHUNG, Taiwan _  I was here two years ago. The same situation. I just wanted us to succeed versus the world. This time it’s a somewhat different story. 

This time it’s not just about myself, even though it never was. But this isn’t about me or the journey I’ve walked. Some people say I’ve sprinted to be where I am. Things aren’t such the case. I’m where I’m at based on what I’ve done, but this isn’t about individuals. Team Canada isn’t an individual. Some things aren’t worth explaining yourself:

First, I’d like to recognize the people who have influenced me thus far. First and foremost, my parents, mom and dad. We often overlook those closest to us. 

Secondly, all of my coaches who have been a part of this journey so far. It doesn’t matter who I’m talking about, every single one has had some sort of influence in a beneficial way, whatever that may be. 

And lastly, the people who would love to see me fall. Thank you for finding that deep motivation within me, across the world or not. I’d also just like to thank all of those who have given their say in me whatever it may be. Now for the real talk. 

Team Canada. 

I will never not be surprised or shocked when I get the call to represent. The fact of being one of the select few to be called upon to be selected to show that I am Canada will always be an honour, no matter what stage of my career I’m in. 

When I was on the Junior National Team, it was a whole new experience. Seeing other guys from different countries wanting what we wanted. Wanting the same trophy, the cash prize. It was almost normal. Everyone was the same thing. Success is what it is. But it’s not that simple anymore. 

As athletes grow up and figure it out, it’s more than just wanting to win. It’s something that is embedded in the back of your mind. Something that is thought of every time you hit the gym, the track, the field, the cage. And it doesn’t leave. 

Premier 12 is the tournament’s name, based upon the top 12 countries given the opportunity to this championship. Everyone plays a large role in succeeding, 1 through 9. Everyone needs to execute and lay down their roles. Such was the case not even four months ago when we won gold at home, which will be a feeling none of us will ever forget.

The general public will never understand the work that goes in before the stage is presented. Yes, I’m talking about many of you. It’s not a case of being above, it’s a case of being presented and presenting ourselves with opportunities that we – as a unit – have created for ourselves along with everyone else that is a part of this team. Age, level and skill don’t matter anymore. One job is one job done.

I talk a lot about the spotlight on a lot of my social media. That’s because the spotlight isn’t more so a thing, it’s a symbol. A symbol of being exposed to your peers and everyone else watching you. Every day training occurs and it doesn’t matter what specification people desire. Whatever you bring to the table it needs to be enough for not only the sake of the team but for the sake of a nation resting on your shoulders. 

Now I know Canada’s national sport isn’t baseball, and it’s not the most televised sport there either, as I assume it will never be. But when the call of duty hits and a nation wants to rely on a specific group of guys, the time is time. 

We are here. We are proud, and there is nothing more inspiring than a country lifted behind us and being our backbone while we attempt to conquer the world. 

As a unit, we want nothing more than Canada as a country to be there for us as we take on the world tomorrow. The spotlight might be dim and we might be the underdogs, but we are the defending champions of half the world. I know I said it’s not about me, but I don’t feel like giving a championship to a team on the other side of the world or anywhere else. 

I’ve never needed support from anyone, but I feel the true motivation is only revealed when you wear the nation’s colours on your chest and you hear your anthem during pre-game. Chills run up and down my spine, and it doesn’t matter how many times I hear ‘O Canada,’ the symbolism never changes. The country becomes one, as we’ve always been. 

We are one. 

Nothing brings fire to my bones like remembering the win we had over Cuba in the preliminary round at the Pan Ams, aside from winning the entire thing. But we face Cuba to kick it off. Unlike the regular season, this tournament is a sprint, where we all lay it all down on the line, every play for each other. We are all brothers in uniform and nothing less. Nothing gets me going more than the feeling of being a lone wolf, besides being a pack of wolves versus the world. That’s who we are.

The thought process consists of standing on the gold-medal podium singing the national anthem with the boys at my side. I wish I could convey it more easily but there is no other way. That is the goal. That is the only option. 

This is something I’d like to talk about when I’m sitting on the couch at 80 years old to my buddies. The memory of being a part of the few who became the unit to overcome. 

We are Canada.