Sunday, December 09, 2007

Camping season opens in Calgary

37 invitees arrive in Calgary on Monday, ready to lay stake to their claim on a spot on Canada's 22 man World Junior hockey tournament roster.

Coach Craig Hartsburg and his staff will evaluate the selections provided by Hockey Canada scout Al Murray, who has followed the 37 through their club teams and took notes during this summer's Canada Russia junior series.

The five day camp will help Hartsburg get a feel for his players and look for tendencies that may help or detract from the goal of gold from the Czech Republic starting on Boxing Day.

The Globe and Mail's Donna Spencer provided an interesting glimpse into the process on the papers website this weekend.

World junior camp begins Monday
Canadian Press
December 9, 2007 at 4:30 PM EST

Calgary — It would be easier, in time and effort, to just pick 22 players for Canada's junior hockey team, put them on a plane and send them to the world junior hockey championships.
But head coach Craig Hartsburg feels selection camp starting Monday at Father David Bauer is more than a five-day tryout for the 37 players invited.

He says it imparts a lesson he wants the team to carry into the tournament starting Dec. 26 in the Czech Republic.

"Our kids, they don't feel they have anything given to them and to me, that's the Canadian way," Hartsburg said. "Our kids earn everything they get in hockey and that's the way we want it."

While Hartsburg's predecessor Brent Sutter also put his teams through selection camps prior to the world junior tournament, Sutter said he wouldn't mind bypassing that step and simply choosing the team from the pool of players that had already been identified and scouted by Hockey Canada.

The U.S. follows that practice, but the main reason USA Hockey doesn't run a selection camp is because most of the team is made up of college players who are in the middle of exams at this time of their seasons.

The four goalies, 12 defencemen and 21 forwards arriving in Calgary on Monday have been marked as Canada's best available players born in 1988 or later.

But there's another step to take in making the team and Hartsburg feels that makes spots on it even more coveted.

"For our kids in Canada, it's an honour for every kid to be selected to this camp and through that honour, there comes a responsibility that they have to learn the importance of playing on this team and I think the tryouts bring that responsibility," he explained.

"We gain something through that process."

Hockey Canada head scout Al Murray chose the 37 players after watching them with their club teams, in the Canada-Russia ADT Challenge and in the summer's eight-game Super Series against Russia.

Hartsburg and assistants Clement Jodoin and Curtis Hunt relied on Murray to bring them a pool of quality players as they are occupied with their club teams in Sault Ste Marie, Ont., Rimouski Que., and Regina respectively.

Murray now hands the group over to the coaches to whittle the roster down to two goalies, seven defencemen and 13 forwards by Friday, when the team gets on a plane for Europe for its pre-tournament camp.

If Hockey Canada eliminated selection camp, choosing the team would fall to Murray.

"So now it's really the scout's team and the coach gets the hand he's dealt if you don't have a camp," explained Brad Pascall, Hockey Canada's senior director of national teams.

"It's important for the coach to see these guys and make sure they're the team he wants to put together."

Added Hartsburg: "As a coaching staff we certainly trust Al Murray to identify the top kids and as we select the team, the coaching staff kind of personalizes the team with the kind of players we think we can fit in."

Centre Brandon Sutter, who is Brent's son and who will be counted to be one of Canada's top forwards in the Czech Republic, concurs that life would be physically and mentally easier without selection camp.

"It would be nice not to have to worry about a camp, but it's a great test and it makes sure you're sharp and there are no easy rides on the team," Sutter said. "This gives more guys a chance to show what they can do."

Selection camp also forces players who are the top dogs in their respective leagues to elevate their game against players as good as they are, which they will also have to do at the world junior tournament, said defenceman Karl Alzner.

"Everybody is good, yeah, but it's different when you get into a camp like this," he said. "You can show how you can play against a guy who is just as good, if not better than you, so that really helps too."

The 37 players will be split into two training groups and both will skate Monday night. After that, they'll practice in the morning and play intrasquad games at night from Tuesday to Thursday.

Hockey Canada awaited word Sunday on whether the St. Louis Blues would make forward David Perron available to the junior team.

An announcement was not expected from the Blues until after their game in Denver against the Avalanche.

Perron was the lone NHL player left with the possibility of playing for the Canadian juniors after Edmonton Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe said Friday that forward Sam Gagner, who was the MVP of the Super Series, would remain with the NHL club.

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