World Junior "A" Experience

It’s a true privilege to be part of the game of hockey.

Day in and day out, I get to do something I love: Coach goalies. I’ve been very fortunate to this point in my coaching career. As a member of the CCHL’s Carleton Place Jr. A Canadians for the past four years, the team has done a lot of winning. The team has won two consecutive league championships and Eastern Canadian championships, and made it to the championship game of the RBC Cup. We lost both games. Considering there are 131 Junior A teams in Canada, and making it to the national championship final game two years in a row, there’s a lot to be proud of.

To be honest, I didn’t think it could get any better. But two weeks ago, it did.

From December 5th-9th, I was part of the selection camp and coaching staff for Team Canada East in preparation for the World Jr. A Challenge, which took place in Whitby and Cobourg. The event began in 2006 to showcase talent from across Canada’s 10 Junior A leagues. There are two teams representing Canada, East and West, and four international teams – all competing for Gold. The entire experience at camp was surreal. Forty of the top Junior A players in Eastern Canada arrived at camp on Sunday (Dec. 6th) afternoon. And each one learned what it meant to play the Canadian Way. The coaching staff went over a systems overview so the players had an idea of what was expected on the ice. We watched video of Canada’s National and World Junior teams execute in the defensive, neutral, and offensive zones. Breaking down video of Canada’s elite talent was a great reminder about what it will take for the team to be successful – a full team effort in all three areas of the ice. The message was simple: Players with the right DNA would make the team.

The team group was split into two teams and each one hit the ice on Monday for practice at the Mastercard Centre in Mississauga. I was able to run the goalies through some basic movement drills at one end of the ice while the players put in some individual skill work at the other. Coming into camp, the coaching staff had a good idea about each goalie and their individual skills. It was a real treat to see it up close.

One of the neat things the coaching staff did at camp was film practice from the stands and on the ice with two tablets recording drills. Players were able to receive immediate feedback once they finished their turn in the drill. This was beneficial because it provided the players an opportunity to see in real-time how they performed. Each team had video on how they performed and executed systems during practice and games. This helped each team/player understand, again, what was expected of them and what they’re responsible for.

You hear the saying “details matter” a lot in hockey. In a short tournament like this, the details truly do matter. Each team is so skilled that the difference between winning and losing is, you guessed it, in the details. That’s why watching video was such an important part of camp. It made for early mornings and long nights, but in the end, it helps clearly reinforce the details of playing the Canadian Way. One final thought. Participating in a Hockey Canada event was a reminder of how deep the game runs. Just when you think you can’t love the game more, your heart finds a way. And it’s not because of the game itself – it’s about the people. It’s the players, coaches, trainers, medical staff, scouts, fans, and even the hotel staff. Hockey is a beautiful game because of the good people in it. I was lucky to meet many, many good people at camp.

A very heartfelt thank you to everyone involved for the wonderful memories!