Canada’s junior hockey gladiators report to their four day selection camp today, for the first of what promise to be spirited workouts under the watchful eye of Brent Sutter. But before they grab their blades and sticks they had best find themselves a barber.
Sutter’s first bit of business at the camp is making sure those with the flowing locks get a trim. Portraying the idea as a bonding experience for his young players, Sutter is going to make a few barbers rather happy today.
Once the players have their hair to Sutter specs the real work will begin. Sutter hopes to take a very youthful and untested group of juniors onto greater hockey glory starting on Boxing Day. With only Cam Barker returning from last year’s team, this will be a team full of new names for Canadians to keep their eyes on over the two week tournament.
Thirty four were invited to the selection camp, with only 22 spots on the roster for the cut down day of Friday. Some of the players to be watching include Angelo Esposito from the Quebec Remaprts, the youngest player at the camp. At 16 it may be a hard bit of skating for him to crack this line up of 18 and 19 year olds, but from all accounts he’s got as good a chance as anyone to be there on Friday.
Calgary Hitman Justin Pogge could do something that hasn’t been done in awhile take away the net minding duties from someone from the Quebec league, Pogge is one of three westerners vying for the all important goaltending job, Julien Ellis of Shawinigan is the only one from Quebec playing between the pipes this time around.
Jonathon Toews represents a new talent pool for the junior team; Toews is one of five college players to be invited to camp. Marking the most university based players to attend a junior camp in its history.
One player who won’t be making a return visit is Sidney Crosby, while still eligible for the competition his parent club, the Pittsburgh Penguins weren’t inclined to let their leading scorer take time off for the tournament.
Today gets underway with two practices; from there it’s a three day intensive workout to whittle down the list, all leading up to an exhibition game against the University of British Columbia on Thursday night.
By then coach Sutter will have a good idea which players will begin the process to be ready to go to work for Canada at the Boxing Day opener. The rest will be allowed to grow their hair again, for the lucky 22 it’s going to be short and neat with lots of ear showing for a few weeks anyways.
It sure gives a whole new meaning to the term making the cut!