It’s been a tradition for as long as the Rattie family can remember.
As young children, Ty and younger brother Taden would eagerly gather around the television, still clad in their pajamas, to watch the world junior hockey championship being played in Europe.
"We’d get up at 4 or 5 a.m., and the boys would be quite excited about it,'' said their father, Rob Rattie, from their home in Airdrie, Alta. "We all get excited at world junior time and it’s something the boys have always looked forward to. No matter what it was on, they’d be up to watch it on TV.''
That tradition is changing this year, as the Ratties are going to Russia.
When Ty Rattie, a star winger with the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks, found out he had made Canada’s world junior squad, his first phone call was home to his best friend - Taden.
"He told me he finally did it,'' said Taden, 14. "We’ve always had that dream since we were kids to play on Team Canada one day.''
One year ago, with the world junior tournament in Rattie’s backyard – Airdrie is roughly 30 kilometres north of Calgary – he was one of the team’s final cuts. So on the day Rattie was first able to wear his Team Canada jersey, he was beaming. It was team picture day and his smile was ear to ear, even once the cameras had been put away.
"This is a team I dreamed of being on,'' said Ty, a second-round pick of the St. Louis Blues in 2011. "It was such a far-off dream, because it was always like, 'You’re never going to really do it.' But now the Ratties are going to be in Russia and I’m going to be playing, so it’s going to be a cool thing and I can’t wait.''
The whole family is going – Rob, Taden, their mother Shauna, her parents Brian and Jean, and even a family friend from Houston. Like many families making the trip to Ufa, Russia, for the tournament, they are getting help from Hockey Canada to book hotels, get tickets and, most importantly, get Russian visas.
The only downside to travelling to Russia for the tournament for the Ratties will be spending Christmas Day with a lengthy layover at the Atatürk International Airport in Istanbul before catching a final connection to Ufa.
"I talked to my mom and she wants Christmas,'' said Rattie. "That’s going to be the only bummer.''
The plan, however, is to try to get a room at the airport hotel, though after an 11-hour flight from Toronto to Istanbul, the Ratties might not be in a festive mood.
"We’re trying to do Christmas before we leave,'' said Rob. "It’ll be interesting in Turkey, but we’re excited for Ty. Eight hours in the Turkish airport -- I don’t know what to expect.
"We’re still quite excited, so I’m sure it’ll go quite fast.''
For Ty, sharing this experience with his tight-knit family is a dream come true. The Ratties love their sports. Rob has been active coaching both hockey and baseball in Airdrie. He and Shauna are both diehard Toronto Blue Jays fans. Their love of baseball has been passed down to both Ty and Taden, who are excellent ballplayers. When he was Taden’s age, Ty had the opportunity to represent Team Alberta at a national baseball tournament.
"I didn’t play that much, but I was so happy to make it that year,'' said Ty, a shortstop. "That’s probably a close second to what I’m feeling now. It was so exciting because my family is a huge baseball family.''
Taden, a catcher, is eligible for the WHL bantam draft this year. Ask Ty about his younger brother and he is immediately engaged and excited. You can tell he’s Taden’s biggest fan.
"He’s very good at both sports,'' said the proud older brother. "He’s got time to decide, but he’ll have a very bright future in which ever sport he picks.
"He’s going to be a young guy to watch out for.''
The same was true for Ty. He eventually decided to give up baseball and focus on hockey. As a bantam, he set a new provincial record with 75 goals and 56 assists in 33 games. Rattie was taken second overall by Portland in the 2008 WHL bantam draft – just behind Team Canada captain Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. With the Winterhawks, he has consistently been one of the team’s top offensive producers. This season, he’s scored 19 goals and added 28 assists in 30 regular-season games.
He’s also been a big winner off the ice – particularly at Big Al’s, a bowling alley in Portland which includes a 7,000 square-foot arcade. It’s at Big Als’ where Ty and his teammates spend a lot of time trying to win enough tickets to buy various prizes. Last season they pooled their tickets to buy a snow-cone machine, which is now proudly on display in the Rattie family kitchen.
"I think the thing cost like $40 to pick it up in the store,'' said Rob. "They probably blew $200 at the arcade trying to get it.''
This year Ty has set his sights on a cotton candy machine. His game of choice is called "Fire & Ice'' in which you have to drop a series of balls into either the fire or ice slots of a large spinning wheel.
"I’m pretty good at it,'' said Ty. "One jackpot and it could get up to 450 tickets. It gets big.''
According to the 6-foot, 180-pound forward, they will need roughly 25,000 tickets for the cotton candy machine. And there’s little doubt he will make it happen.
"When he has something on his mind or a goal at the end, he does it 100 per cent,'' said Rob. "He’s always been like that, just very motivated. When Ty wants something he tries real hard to get it and once he’s made his mind up, you can’t change Ty’s mind.''
Starting Dec. 26, Ty’s mind will be on nothing except winning gold for Canada in front of his family in Russia.
"That would be my jackpot,'' said Ty. "It’ll go snow-cone machine, cotton candy machine, and then gold medal all in a row.
"That would be the coolest thing ever.''
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