Thanks to a moment of frustration from Sweden forward Lias Andersson, Williamsville native Bill Shaflucas is an internet sensation.
Standing a few rows behind the glass following Sweden's 3-1 loss to Canada in the Gold Medal Game of the World Junior Championships, Shaflucas caught the silver medal flung into the stands by the captain of the losing team.
"[Andersson] took off the medal and I thought, 'What's he going to do?'," Shaflucas remembers. "We made eye contact, I held my hand out and he threw it."
Despite yells of "throw it back!" from nearby fans, Shaflucas took off two jerseys - a Rochester Americans sweater, then a Team USA top - to reveal a Sweden jersey underneath, before hanging the medal around his neck. The jersey shedding was a moment of brilliance from Shaflucas, stunning a crowd that was already trying to digest a medal-winner discarding his hardware.
— BarDown (@BarDown) January 6, 2018
"The guy in the stands wanted it more than me, so I gave it to him," said Anderson, a New York Rangers prospect who'd earned two silver medals prior to this tournament. "I'm just going to have it home in some box or whatever so he wanted it more than me."
As it turns out, Shaflucas didn't want to keep the medal either; the former club hockey captain at West Virginia University handed the prize to a Sweden trainer minutes later - after posing for a few pictures.
Part of the rationale for returning the medal was Shaflucas' abundance of more personally meaningful hockey items; the owner of DJ Trivia WNY and Brew Bus Buffalo emphasized his own participation in last year's charitable 11-Day Power Play in HarborCenter, from which he cherishes warm memories and collectibles.
But why the heck did Shaflucas, a devoted Team USA fan, have a Sweden jersey, anyhow? When Buffalo hosted the World Juniors seven years ago, Shaflucas met a group of Canadian fans with whom he made quick friends. The Western New Yorker purchased a Sweden jersey to "razz" his new pals - before giving it to a Sweden fan who'd left her own sweater overseas.
While the fan promised to pay him back, she failed to do so until months later, when Shaflucas received a random letter in the mail filled with American bills and at least $3 worth of coins as compensation for the jersey. Amazed he'd been repaid - and by the nature of the repayment - he bought another Sweden jersey to badger his friends.
The group met up again this December - Shaflucas attended all but four of the World Juniors games - and the playful USA fan would stand slyly behind his Canadian friends at a table in the 200 level and quietly unveil his purchase, irking the lovers of Team Canada when they turned around. When Andersson heaved his medal into the crowd, then, Shaflucas was well-equipped for the momentous opportunity.
The medal-catcher admitted that he "didn't have to pay for a drink at the bar after," and that a Team Canada fan recognized him and offered $1,000 for the medal. Shaflucas explained that he'd willfully given it back.
"As fun as the experience was, [Andersson] is going to want it. Maybe not tomorrow or next week, but he's going to want it. His family is going to want it.
"Plus, what am I going to do with it?"
(H/T Brian Bartosik)