Andrew Cogliano at the 2006 tournament in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images).
With the 2011 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship well underway in Buffalo, New York, some current Edmonton Oilers have had the opportunity to reflect on their experiences at the annual holiday tournament.
For Andrew Cogliano, the memories of the international exhibition are particularly fond, as the speedster was able to capture the championship on two separate occasions.
"Winning," Cogliano said with a smile. "That’s what it was all about for us. I had the chance to play in Vancouver and Sweden and win two golds with Canada. It's a good tournament, I had a lot of fun doing it, and Canada always puts on a good show."
Although Cogliano was already developing a dynamic set of offensive tools before joining Team Canada in 2006, the annual event happened to provide him with an even greater opportunity to shine and refine his skills.
The 2006 tournament was played back in Canada for the first time in three years, which came to the delight of the masses that cheered on the Canadians from start to finish at General Motors Place in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Cogliano recalled the memories of the surreal atmosphere provided by the sell-out crowds.
"Incredible," Cogliano said of the fan support. "Our year in Vancouver, that was the first year it was held in Canada in a while. Just the excitement and the energy in the building -- and the city, too. It was simply incredible. That was something I'll never forget. I had a great time, won gold, and obviously made life-long friends playing in that tournament."
While Cogliano certainly refined his offensive game at the 2006 event, as he recorded five points in six games and was counted on as one of the team's leaders in that regard, it was his play at both ends of the rink that saw the most improvement.
Coach Brent Sutter brought a unique brand of coaching to Team Canada’s game that relied heavily on a defensive system that has helped Cogliano establish his reliable two-way game.
According to Cogliano, it was a byproduct of excellent coaching and the makeup of the team’s roster.
"He's a very hard-nosed coach; preached defence. We had a team where we didn't have a lot of superstars. We had a lot of skill, but tough and hard-nosed guys who played defensively and played hard."
"We got the job done. At the end of the day, Brent needed to get the done job and in those kind of tournaments it doesn't really matter how you do it, you have to win. We did a good job of doing that."
With one gold medal secured in 2006, Cogliano returned to Team Canada in 2007 to help Canada capture the prize once again. This time, the event was held in Mora and Leksand, Sweden, where Cogliano says his greatest hockey memory was recorded.
"Probably the biggest memory was beating the States in the shootout in Sweden. That was one of the highs of my career for sure. It would be pretty difficult to top that moment."
So much has been made of the close-knit relationship between Canadian players following the two-week experience. Particularly when the squad comes away victorious, the opportunity to share memories with friends and teammates has been one of the greatest outcomes for Cogliano as he reflects back on his time with national club.
"A lot of the guys still play on NHL teams, so I see them when they come around," Cogliano said. "But I've been friends with all those guys since I played there. You create life-long friends playing in that tournament. It was hell of a run playing in Sweden and Vancouver and playing against the best players in the world. It definitely creates a lasting bond."
With Team Canada looking to rebound from last year’s emotional defeat to the United States in Saskatoon, Cogliano says he’ll be ready to show his national pride.
"I’ll be cheering them on!"