Troy Stecher cherishes Team Canada victory, looks forward to Red Wings future

Detroit News

Detroit — The facts are there, all laid out, with Troy Stecher being an important component in Team Canada rallying at the men’s world championships and winning the tournament June 6 in overtime against Finland.

The Red Wings’ defenseman was an alternate captain on Team Canada, played major minutes, and was a big piece of the leadership group.

All of that is great, and speaks well of Stecher.

But, then, there’s The Assist.

And let’s face it, those several seconds will make Stecher a viral star for infamy.

“When I got home (Vancouver) about two days ago I was talking to my best friend and he said ‘Dude, they’re going to play that video for Hockey Canada for ever and ever,” Stecher told The Detroit News on Thursday. “I never thought about it that way, but it’s pretty cool thinking about it.”

In overtime of a quarterfinal game against Russia, Stecher took a drop pass from Andrew Mangiapane. Knowing the Russia defenders were going to attempt to block any shot or pass, Stecher eluded, skated around two Russian players, then went backhand and fed Mangiapane cross-ice through the slot, under the pad of goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, and Mangiapane tucked in the game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory.

Do yourself a favor, as a hockey fan, and watch the video. Like Stecher’s buddy said, it’ll be around forever.

The surprising part was that it was pulled off by Stecher, who generally is considered a safe, defensive defenseman.

“I know people were surprised it was me who pulled the move off,” Stecher said. “Back when I played junior and college, and when I got into the NHL, my first year I ran the power play. I’ve had some offensive flair in my repertoire.

“But there’s something about making the NHL and surviving in the NHL. I knew I had to adapt my game to be relevant and since then, I’ve never really had the confidence to pull off a move like that.”

Stecher attempted the move in practice the day before. Team Canada assistant general manager Shane Doan happened to watch, and encouraged Stecher to be more offensive when possible.

“I was one of the older guys (on Team Canada) there and I just had the confidence I had in juniors and college,” Stecher said. “Instincts kicked in and it worked out real well.”

The deluge of messages Stecher received after making the highlight-reel play was incredible.

“Oh man, definitely I had well over, well over, a 100 text messages, and the I messages, again, well over a 100,” Stecher said. “And on social media, I have no idea. It was going crazy.”

But the work wasn’t completely done after that goal for Team Canada.

It defeated the U.S. team in the semifinals, then defeated Finland in overtime in the championship game, rebounding from an 0-3 start to the tournament.

That gave Stecher a level of satisfaction and gratification that surpassed anything one individual highlight could.

“It was definitely memorable and such a great experience to be part of,” Stecher said. “We were counted out and we just found a way to stick with it and win it in overtime. It was such a relief to get that redemption.

“Let’s be honest, we didn’t have a top-name guy (on the roster) and for our team to come together the way we did, you could look at Mangiapane and he was the MVP of the tournament and kind of took the tournament by storm, but I really believe every single guy on our team played a part in us wining it.”

After completing a regular season with the Wings in which every NHL team was under strict protocols at home and on the road, it would be understandable if Stecher would have declined the invitation to participate.

But there was no way Stecher was going to say no.

“One, it’s an honor to represent your country,” Stecher said. “Be it Canada, USA, Germany or Latvia, it doesn’t matter. It’s always an honor to represent your country, especially at this level.

“Also, I was very thankful for the opportunity to keep playing. Throughout this season I had some ups and downs. I played well at certain times and struggled at others, and this was a situation where I could go and they told me I would play a ton of meaningful minutes and situations where I’d be one of the top guys and I felt this was a good opportunity for myself on an individual basis and gain confidence heading into the offseason and build toward next training camp.”

There was one other factor: Team Canada’s general manager was Roberto Luongo, the former Vancouver Canucks goaltender, who Stecher watched as a young fan going to Canucks games.

“It didn’t matter who called, I was going to go, but to have it be Luongo, no doubt it was incredible,” Stecher said. “Being born and raised in Vancouver, my dad’s company had season tickets to the Canucks and I was cheering on Luongo all those years. To have him call me to invite me to play for his team, it was pretty unique.”

While competing in the tournament, Stecher played against Germany and future Wings teammate, defenseman Moritz Seider.

Stecher came away impressed.

“He took a penalty against me,” Stecher said of a play behind the net. “He threw me down like I was a feather. I was super impressed. He has a real mature game for a kid his age (20). He kind of does everything well, he defends, moves with the puck, offense is good, he’s just going to be a force in this league.

“Wings fans should be real excited. I’m excited as a teammate next season.”

Stecher was also the partner throughout the tournament of Michigan defenseman Owen Power, who projects to be the No. 1 overall pick in the July NHL Entry Draft.

“He’s real good, a lot like Seider in that he’s good in every aspect,” Stecher said. “He isn’t overly offensive or defensive, he’s just a real good two-way defenseman that can contribute at both ends of the ice.”

The infusion of young talent coming into the NHL lineup, plus the way the Wings finished last season — as well as played for the majority of the season, save for a three-week early battle against COVID — gives Stecher optimism about the Wings’ future.

“You look at the young guys coming in and the impact they made last season like when Joe Veleno came in, and he played real well in those games he played,” Stecher said, “and knowing we’re going to have more young players coming in and making an impact, it’s a good time to be a Wing.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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