by Lisa McRitchie on 08/09/11 at 04:00 PM ET
This spring, Team Canada named Vancouver Giant’s head coach Don Hay to coach the 2012 Team Canada World Junior team. The last time the championships were in Alberta, Canada took the gold. Coincidently, Don Hay was the team’s head coach. 1995 was also a year that a young Ryan Smyth played for Team Canada. Through the seven games played, Smyth scored 2 goals and 5 assists.
Through the Team Canada development camp held last week in Edmonton and Fort McMurray, Hay has been given an opportunity to observe and get to know some of the very best U20 Canadian hockey players. Hay addressed the media after the Red and White practises on Saturday at Rexall Place and commented on how well he felt he had come to know the players. “The more you see them, the [more] comfortable they get, the [more] comfortable you get. It’s nice to see them around the lunch tables and the dinner tables. Obviously yesterday [Friday was a trip to the Edmonton Garrison for team building] going out without the helmets on was really good for us. They had no name tags yesterday, so you really had to understand who they were.”
With the initial summer camp over, the coaching staff will now prepare for their regular seasons with their respective teams and start keeping tabs on the eligible Canadian players. It seems that now is when the real work begins. “We’ll let the Canadian hockey season start, and then we’ll start having conference calls in September and October. We’ll keep in contact with the coaches around the different leagues so that we can get a feeling of who is playing really well. There are going to be people that are not in this camp that will be invited back at Christmas time, and some people that are in this camp that won’t be invited back. For us, we have to have a feel of where that depth chart is and what type of players we are looking for to fill the holes and then watch how they play in September October.” This will be a large workload on top of his coaching duties with the Giants.
Hay is obviously experienced in working with talented young players, and with coaching this prestigious event. Hay also knows what he’s looking for, “A lot of it comes down to character and past experience.” Team Canada is looking to build a team, not just looking to put names on a list.
When choosing between similar players, but one who has had a consistent start to the year and the other who has had turned it up in November, “I think that you always look for consistency. I think that people have a history.” Hay recognizes that some players can be streaky, “Is he going to be hot at the right time, or is he hot right now.”
This development camp featured five players from the Edmonton area. These players were competing for jobs in front of their friends and family and Hay did have advice for those players. “ Just be yourself. People have been brought in because they have a special skill package. You have to be able to show that to the coaches. You can’t do something you’re not of. So enjoy playing in front of your home crowd, it’s not very often you get to do that. I know that there will be more friends and family in the crowd watching, but that should really motivate you to do well. “
Following the first Red and White game in Edmonton, Hay knew which player the people of Edmonton were especially interested in. “Nugent Hopkins played very well. He was quiet for about half of the game.“ This was what many people seemed to notice and focus on but Hay went on, “Nugent Hopkins is a finisher. He’s around the puck around the net. He has the ability to come up with the right plays at the right time of the game.“ On Saturday night, the right time appeared to be when his team was trailing in the dying minutes of the final period.
Whether or not Nugent-Hopkins and a number of other Team Canada potentials will be available to play in the tournament has yet to be decided. What has been decided is that Team Canada and Canadian hockey fans alike hope for a gold medal win.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
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