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Canadian junior team alumnus feels heartbreak of his Swiss junior team @NHLdotcom

UFA, Russia - Sean Simpson is a Canadian junior hockey team alumnus coaching Switzerland at the 2013 world junior hockey championship.

The 51-year-old from Brampton, Ont., played for Canada at the 1980 tournament in Helsinki. That was before the Canadian team was constructed the way it is now with players invited to try out for the team.

The Peterborough Petes were the Memorial Cup champions and invited Simpson, an Ottawa 67's forward, to join them in representing Canada. The Canadians finished fifth that year in Finland.

"I always tell people that I played at the world juniors and everyone right away goes, "Wow, that's fantastic", but I have to point out it was before the national program," Simpson said Wednesday. "Although I was an OK junior player, I don't think I would have made it if there was (the current) program.

"That was a big thrill obviously to play in the tournament. To come back as a coach is great. I remember that Helsinki tournament. It sort of got my interest up in coming to Europe. I've been in Europe for 28 or more years now."

Simpson has coached the Swiss men's team internationally for three years. The country has finished fifth, ninth and 11th at the men's world championship during his tenure.

Simpson took over in 2010 for Ralph Krueger, another Canadian who had been behind Switzerland's bench for 13 years. Krueger is now the head coach of the NHL's Edmonton Oilers.

The Swiss junior team was added to Simpson's job description this year because the under-20 coach took another job within the hockey federation. Simpson, who lives with his family in Zug, will again coach Switzerland at the 2013 men's world championships to be held jointly in Stockholm and Helsinki.

"Normally an 'A' coach doesn't do the juniors, but I had no problems doing it," Simpson said. "I didn't have any problems stepping down to the junior level. I think every experience as a coach is a good one, especially with this group of players."

But Simpson and his Swiss junior team deserved better in Ufa, Russia. Switzerland didn't lose a game in regulation time, but lost three in a shootout and another in overtime.

After opening with a win over Latvia, they fell in shootouts to Sweden and Finland and in overtime to the Czech Republic in Pool A games.

In Wednesday's quarter-final, the Swiss led 3-2 late in the third period and were on the verge of a shocking upset of Russia.

However, the hosts scored a power-play goal with 1:39 remaining en route to a shootout win. It was a fourth straight loss in overtime or extra shots for the Swiss, who will play for fifth place.

"I didn't say too much to the team because they're really, really upset," Simpson said. "I just told them how proud I was of them and it's not really fair what's happened to us.

"Normally when you play good enough to take Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic and Russia to overtime, normally things work out where at least one time you win the game.

"Sport is a great thing, but sometimes it's tough. Right now, it's fairly tough."

While Simpson coached in the Swiss club system for several years before his national-team appointment, he says coaching Canada to victory at the 2007 Spengler Cup helped him get the job.

"I always compliment Hockey Canada for helping me in my international career," Simpson said. "Without them picking me all the time to go to these international tournaments with them, I wouldn't have had the international exposure that I did have. When Ralph left, they probably wouldn't have considered me."

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