Canada camp big chance for Bulldogs
It’s opportunity knocking for a pair of Hamilton Bulldogs.
Matthew Strome and Mackenzie Entwistle touched down in Calgary Friday for Canada’s under-18 selection camp. Up for grabs is a spot on the national team and a trip to the prestigious Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup in the Czech Republic and Slovakia next month.
“It’s probably the most highly scouted tournament in all of hockey before they get drafted,” said John Gruden, the Bulldogs’ head coach. “It’s pretty special.”
The invite isn’t a first for Strome and Entwistle, who are entering their sophomore OHL seasons and first years of NHL draft eligibility. A year ago, they both made the cut to play for Canada at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
It won’t be as easy this time around.
Unlike last year, the two forwards will now be playing for a place on a true national team. At the under-17 level, Canada ices three squads — red, white and black — meaning the previous pool of successful candidates was three times larger.
This summer, 44 players were invited to the under-18 tryout from coast to coast compared with 111 16year-olds. Just 22 of them will make the team.
Strome and Entwistle, both 17, will practise and scrimmage with the other hopefuls from now until Tuesday. After that, the group will be whittled down before it heads to Europe for the tournament later in the week.
Gruden, who coached the U.S. at the 2013 Hlinka, said a spot on the roster would be a huge boost for Strome and Entwistle. It’s also a boon for the Bulldogs.
“For the city to start to recognize these elite athletes and the potential they have, especially with Hamilton being new to the OHL, it should really get people excited about being able to watch these kids develop — not only as players but as young men,” he said. And if they don’t make it? “They can use it as motivation,” Gruden said. “They have to realize, hey, I still have work to do and I’m not going to let this bring me down from what my long-term goals are.”
Hayden Davis, a defenceman for the Niagara IceDogs, is also in Cowtown for the under-18 camp. The Hamilton native suited up alongside Strome on one of the country’s under-17 teams last year.
Canada has won the Hlinka 11 times in the past 12 years, including the last eight consecutive tournaments. Strome’s older brother, Dylan, won a gold medal at the competition in 2014.
Notes: The Bulldogs are looking for billet families for the upcoming season. For more information about the program, visit hamiltonbulldogs.com/billet-family-program or email firstname.lastname@example.org … Thousands of tickets are still available for the Toronto Maple Leafs pre-season game against the Detroit Red Wings at FirstOntario Centre on Oct. 7 — the club’s first visit to Hamilton in more than a decade. You can buy them online at ticketmaster.ca … Call it an extreme makeover. The Bulldogs dressing room was being prepped this week for new carpet, stalls and a paint job. The revamp has also spilled out into the lower floor hallway, where the club’s old red, white and blue colour scheme is being replaced with black and gold.
Matthew Strome (above) and Mackenzie Entwistle are in Calgary for Canada’s under-18 selection camp.