Skip to main content

Canada starts process of defending World Junior gold

by Aaron Vickers / NHL.com

CALGARY -- Prior to stepping on the ice to kick off Hockey Canada's national junior team summer development camp Saturday, the 39 players invited to participate were first shown a video.

It depicted the "Canadian way."

Though the opportunity to defend World Junior gold is months away, the process has already started and those auditioning for a spot on the roster that will represent Canada at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship in Helsinki, Finland, from Dec. 26, 2015, through Jan. 5, 2016, got the message.

"In that video, Sidney Crosby was asked about what the Canadian way meant to him," said forward Jake Virtanen at WinSport's Markin MacPhail Centre at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary. "He said it was every guy buying into the systems and every guy is going to be a good player on their club teams, important players to their teams, but every guy has to check their ego at the door and buy in, and no one's going to be above the team. You put the team before yourself.

"That's a pretty cool message from him and seeing that on video from him was pretty cool."

Coach Dave Lowry hoped his players took a message from the video.

They did.

"There's standards that this team is going to play to and there are expectations," said Lowry, who was an assistant to Benoit Groulx when Canada captured its first gold medal since 2009. "We're going to hold these guys accountable to high standards."

Among the clips featured in the video was Canada's gold medal winning performance at the 2015 IIHF Men's World Championship, which Crosby captained, and the 2015 World Junior Championship, in which Virtanen participated.

Defenseman Joe Hicketts said the video sent a strong message.

"It gets the goose bumps going, seeing us win and the men going again," Hicketts said. "This camp is a starting block. It's something we can build a foundation for and something we can work on moving forward. We're going to have a good week here of practices and some games. I think it's important that when the guys that do get called back come in December, they have that foundation to build upon."

Canada hadn't medaled at the World Juniors since 2012 prior to capturing gold in 2015. Now, Lowry has 21 first-round picks among the 39 players in camp and five returning players, including Hicketts and Virtanen, to build his roster around in trying to defend it. The others include Brayden Point, Lawson Crouse and Robby Fabbri.

Those in the returning core are aware of Lowry's standards. They also understand their role at development camp.

"We've come together and talked," Fabbri said. "We've got to be good leaders on and off the ice to these guys and show them what it takes to accomplish what we did last year and show them it's not easy, but at the same time it's a lot of fun. I remember it was a lot of fun last year coming in and working to make it and this year it's a little bit of a different mindset coming in, trying to earn the same spot and show the ropes to the new guys. This is where the team started last year to become close and that's what we have to do this year as well."

It's what's expected, and Lowry's made it known to those with experience from last year, and those in camp for the first time.

"In the evaluation process you're trying to bring the best players in and to us, these are world class players," Lowry said. "What we're looking for is we've got 39 players here now. We're going to work our way to get to 22 and we want to be tough. We want the decision to be made hard. We laid out the expectations for each individual player and they know exactly what they have to do this week.

"What we're looking for is to start our foundation and getting these guys to understand what our standards are and how our team is going to play.

"Yes it is August, but we're starting now to prepare for December."

View More