Team Canada es­cap­ing to Rus­sia

World Ju­niors will be all hockey and no hoopla this time around

SundayXtra - - SPORTS HOCKEY - By Tim Camp­bell Timetable

KITCH­ENER, Ont. — The hype of the World Ju­nior Hockey Cham­pi­onship never seems to abate.

With that in mind, you will find no­body in the coun­try hap­pier to be go­ing half- way around the globe to Ufa, Rus­sia to play the 2013 ver­sion than Team Canada head coach Steve Spott.

“The last three World Ju­niors, the pres­sure that’s been on our kids and our staffs have been in­cred­i­ble,” Spott said in an in­ter­view this week at his reg­u­lar- job of­fice as head coach of the On­tario Hockey League’s Kitch­ener Rangers. “It was a very big show.”

Spott was an as­sis­tant coach at the 2010 tour­na­ment in Saskatchewan. There, and at the fol­low­ing years in Buf­falo and in Al­berta un­der in­tense home scru­tiny, Team Canada won medals, but not gold.

“There’s the en­ter­tain­ment fac­tor,” Spott said. “There are out­side pres­sures of our play­ers and staff with re­gards to fam­i­lies. And the me­dia. It was as big as any­thing I’ve been a part of.

“Now, the fact we’re go­ing to go to Rus­sia, you’ll get the pu­rity of the hockey back. That’s some­thing I’m ex­cited about. It’s not go­ing to be about all of the me­dia and the five- star ho­tels and the pre- game meals that would put any wed­ding to shame.

“It’ll just be the pu­rity of the tour­na­ment and really take our play­ers back into a time where they went to hockey tour­na­ments. I think it’ll be a lot more sim­ple and I’m really ex­cited about that. Hav­ing been a part of the tour­na­ment in Saska­toon, they’re big­ger than life.

“Go­ing to this tour­na­ment is go­ing to be really, really good, hopefully to get us back to a point where we ap­pre­ci­ate just play­ing in a tour­na­ment.”

Spott, with am­ple ex­pe­ri­ence as a World Ju­nior as­sis­tant and other Team Canada as­sign­ments in the Un­der- 17 and Un­der- 18 ranks, un­der­stands the pres­sure.

“There’s pres­sure any time you put on that blazer and for the play­ers who put on that sweater,” he said. “That starts at the U- 17 level, and it’s in­grained in th­ese kids.

“We wel­come it. You wouldn’t want to go into th­ese tour­na­ments just think­ing you might get a medal. It’s gold or noth­ing and it’s nice to have that pres­sure.”

When he threw his hat into the ring for the ap­point­ment that was an­nounced in May, the 44- year- old Toronto na­tive was keenly aware that ev­ery Cana­dian hockey fan will be look­ing over his shoul­der in the weeks ahead.

“Hockey Canada pre­pares you for it,” he said. “They bring you in as an as­sis­tant with the Un­der 18 team, then you go as an as­sis­tant of the World Ju­nior team, then as head coach of the Un­der 18 team, then hopefully you have an op­por­tu­nity to take this job. It’s not some­thing they just thrust upon you, like ‘ Here’s the life preserver, good luck.’

“One thing we’re very for­tu­nate with in our coun­try is the shar­ing of in­for­ma­tion among coaches. So deal­ing with the Ken Hitch­cocks, the Dave Camerons, the Willy Des­jardins, Donny Hay ( all former head coaches), th­ese guys have been spec­tac­u­lar. They’ve been will­ing to share, will­ing to lend ad­vice, and that’s really im­por­tant to me.

“You just don’t throw your name in the hat for some­thing like this un­less you know what you’re get­ting into.”

Spott has the ad­di­tional chal­lenge this year of hav­ing play­ers who might or might not be avail­able be­cause of any pos­si­ble start of the NHL sea­son.

“Ob­vi­ously this is go­ing to be a unique year be­cause of the ( NHL) work stop­page,” he said. “We really have three dif­fer­ent ghost ros­ters that we’re look­ing at right now. One in­cludes all of the NHL play­ers, a sec­ond list that in­cludes those play­ers we think will be in the NHL and some that may be back, and a third list that in­cludes all seven or eight that would just be in the NHL.

“Three dif­fer­ent teams, but we’re hav­ing con­fer­ence calls ev­ery Tues­day at noon with the en­tire coach­ing staff to talk about the week­end in our in­di­vid­ual leagues.”

As well as phone con­fer­ences, the head coach has been to Hockey Canada head­quar­ters sev­eral times to over­see the big plan.

“We deal with the itin­er­ar­ies, the ex­tra travel, food, meet­ing chefs and sports psy­chol­o­gists and sleep doc­tors,” he said. “Hockey Canada, the one thing they do is they don’t miss any de­tails. When you look at this trip and the de­tails in­volved, it’s a big un­der­tak­ing.”


World ju­nior coach Steve Spott says pres­sure will be off in Rus­sia.

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