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Hartsburg won't coach Canada's junior hockey team a third straight year

NHL.com @NHL

The Canadian team chasing a fifth straight gold medal at the next world junior hockey championship in Ottawa will have an entirely new coaching staff.

After two years as head coach and another as an assistant, Craig Hartsburg has reluctantly decided not to coach Canada again in 2009.

Clement Jodoin, an assistant on three straight championship teams, and Curtis Hunt, an assistant on the last two, have also decided not to return.

"It certainly is hard not to do it," Hartsburg said Wednesday from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. "It's obviously one of the biggest tournaments in the world.

"It's hard to continue to do it. There's a huge commitment, but not just for myself, but for lots of other people. It's time to move on and let somebody else have a crack at it."

Hartsburg, 48, was an assistant to Brent Sutter on the team that won the title in Vancouver in 2006.

He took over as head coach in Leksand, Sweden in 2007, and this year in Pardubice, Czech Republic, where Canada won its third and fourth straight gold medals.

Hartsburg's Canadian teams won titles in dramatic fashion. Canada beat the U.S. in a shootout in the semifinal en route to the championship in 2007 and won the gold in overtime versus Sweden this year.

Hartsburg was the centre of a goaltending controversy in the Czech Republic when he made the decision to go with Steve Mason as his starter in the playoffs over Jonathan Bernier.

After an average performance in the quarter-final, Mason had an outstanding semifinal, was a steady performer in the championship game and was named the tournament's best goaltender and MVP.

Canada's coaches are chosen from club teams in the Canadian Hockey League, so while they are running their own teams they must also prepare for the world junior tournament.

Hartsburg coaches the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Jodoin the QMJHL's Rimouski Oceanic and Hunt the WHL's Regina Pats.

A summer camp, the six-game ADT Canada-Russia Challenge every November and a month away for the world junior tournament all make for a hectic schedule.

Possible hip-replacement surgery on an old injury from his NHL playing days and his daughter's wedding this summer also factored into Hartsburg's decision not to coach in Ottawa.

"You've got to be able to totally commit to this thing and after doing it three years, I really believe it's best other people have a chance to do it and you get fresh people in there," Hartsburg said.

Hockey Canada is currently interviewing candidates to coach both the junior team and this summer's under-18 squad. The coaches will be announced after the Memorial Cup in May.

Kitchener Rangers head coach Peter DeBoer has applied to coach the Canadian junior team in Ottawa.

He was Sutter's assistant in 2005 for the first of the current run of four gold and again last summer in the eight-game Super Series against Russia, in which Canada went 7-0-1.

"I've always enjoyed my Hockey Canada experiences and it's the chance of a lifetime to coach a world junior team, especially with it in our back yard in Canada," DeBoer said.

Don Hay, who coached the Vancouver Giants to a Memorial Cup last year and the Canadian junior team to gold in 1995, said he'd filled out an application, then decided not to pursue the job.

"I'm just not that passionate about it right now," Hay said from Vancouver.

Hartsburg's record as a head coach at the world juniors championship is 12-1, including the overtime and shootout victories.

Sutter holds the record at 19-0-1 after coaching Canada in 2005, 2006 and the Super Series before heading to the NHL's New Jersey Devils.

Canada's next junior team will not have a returning head coach or assistant for the first time in four years.

Hartsburg is well qualified to offer advice to Canada's next head coach, whose team will try to match the country's record of five straight gold from 1992 to 1996.

"It's a tournament where you get a lot of exposure here in Canada from fans and media and you've got a lot of people behind you and there's also going to be lots of second-guessing," Hartsburg said. "You have to believe and trust yourself and your staff.

"The Canadian kids just seem to rise to the occasion and I envision they will continue in the future to win gold medals because of the character of our kids."

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