Long after he's retired as an NHL forward, Brett Bulmer can look back on 2015 fondly as the year he took Canada to the top of the inline hockey world.
In his first-ever appearance on a national team, the 23-year-old from Prince George played a vital role in helping the Canadian squad go undefeated in six games at the eight-team world championship tournament in Tampere, Finland. Bulmer scored one of the four goals Canada needed to defeat the defending champions from Finland 4-2 Saturday in front of 6,678 mostly disappointed spectators.
"It was obviously special to be part of Team Canada and winning it against the host team was pretty crazy," said Bulmer Wednesday from London, England.
"We knew it was going to be a big crowd playing against Finland. It was a great arena and the fans really came out for it and were all against us and I think that added some fire for us to come out and win it. There were a few Canadian fans in the crowd, mostly family, and they were wearing our second jersey so you could see some red in the crowd."
Bulmer's parents, Sharon and Lance, weren't able to make the trip from Prince George but watched the webcasts of the games live online.
Canada rolled to round-robin wins over Slovakia (5-2), Germany (6-4), and the USA (5-4 in overtime), then defeated Slovenia (6-5) in the quarterfinals and Sweden (6-2) in the semifinals. In the final, Bulmer scored the second goal of the game. He finished the tournament with three goals and nine assists for 12 points, tied for fourth overall with teammate Thomas Woods in tournament scoring. Canadian forward Dave Hammond (9-5-14) and defenceman Adam Ross (6-7-13) ranked second and third in scoring behind Finnish forward Jimi Palanto (11-8-19).
"I had a pretty strong tournament the whole way," Bulmer said. "It's 4-on-4, two forwards, two D, so me and (Hammond) were linemates. It was mostly B.C. and Alberta kids and a couple of Ontario guys. We got together for an evaluation camp and then they make the team shortly after and everyone meets up at the tournament.
"We had a very tight group - we were all kind of a brotherhood and we knew nothing was going to stop us. We just trusted each other and we had a lot of pride for our country, being so far away, and it was good to pull it off."
Canada, which won the IIHF title in 1998 and 2012 and lost to Finland in the 2014 final, was seeded second behind Finland. In the 20-year history of the tournament, Canada has won three gold, three silver and two bronze medals.
Before he became a junior hockey star with the Kelowna Rockets, Bulmer made a name for himself in the Prince George Minor Roller Hockey Association playing for the Prince George Reapers at the North American Roller Hockey and World Inline championships.
"Inline was my summer sport growing up and I played at every kind of big tournament," he said. "Once ice hockey kind of got too much I had to stop for awhile. This summer Team Canada asked me to play and I was geared up to go right away."
Bulmer's uncle in Prince George, Ken Watson of Wayne Watson Construction, sponsored his trip to Vancouver in May for the national team tryout.
The six-foot-four, 212-pound Bulmer hopes to crack the NHL roster of the Minnesota Wild this season, once he works out details of a new contract as a restricted free agent.
Last season Bulmer played in the AHL for the Wild's farm team in Des Moines, Iowa. In 53 games at right wing he collected four goals and 16 points along with 50 penalty minutes. The Wild drafted him in the second round, 39th overall in 2010. As a 19-year-old rookie he played nine NHL games and picked up three assists for Minnesota before the Wild sent him down to the AHL. Minnesota called him up for five games in 2013-14 but since then he hasn't played in the NHL.
"To be honest, this whole inline thing was something exciting for me to do and get me energized about the season again," said Bulmer, who makes his off-season home in Kelowna. "It's only positive for my ice hockey. I still want to go out and prove everyone wrong. I think every day you can do that and can always get better and I'm looking forward to making the next step to be a full-time NHL player."