Category: North America (page 1 of 7)

Team USA Tops Canada, 7-5, in WJSS Finale

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By USAHockey.com

Joey Anderson (Roseville, Minn.) netted a hat trick and Adam Fox (Jericho, N.Y.) registered five points as the U.S topped Canada, 7-5, in the final game of the 2017 World Junior Summer Showcase. 

Anderson opened the scoring for the U.S. just 5:33 into the contest. The play started when Fox collected the puck at the blue line and sent a cross-ice pass to Patrick Harper (Jericho, N.Y.) who curled towards the slot and fired a pass that Anderson redirected past Canada’s goaltender Carter Hart.

Jordan Kyrou evened the score at the 12:43 mark by firing a slap shot from the top of the left circle past Joseph Woll (St. Louis, Mo.). 

Less than four minutes later, Givani Smith gave Canada a 2-1 advantage when his shot from the blue line deflected off a skate and floated over Woll into the top right corner.

The U.S. were able to respond just 43 seconds later, though, when Fox took a pass from Casey Mittelstadt (Eden Prairie, Minn.) and tucked a wrist shot over Hart’s right shoulder to knot the score, 2-2.

Anderson regained the U.S. lead 1:23 into the middle stanza with his second power-play goal of the game by batting home a rebound off an initial shot from Ryan Poehling (Lakeville, Minn.).

At 9:14, Kailer Yamamoto (Spokane, Wash.) made it 4-2 by taking a pass from Fox and skating around a Canadian defender before tucking a backhanded effort low blocker side.

Pierre-Luc Dubois cut the U.S. lead to one just 3:31 later by finding a loose puck near the crease and lifting it over Woll’s left pad.

Harper regained a two-goal U.S. lead just 48 seconds into the final frame when he took a pass from Fox, split two Canadian defenders and fired a wrist shot high glove side past Canada’s goaltender Dylan Wells.

Poehling finished a feed from Harper on the power-play 6:42 into the final period before Sam Steel one-timed a shot past Woll just over five minutes later to make it 6-4.

Jonah Gadjovich tallied for Canada less than two minutes later to bring the score to 6-5. 

Anderson completed the hat trick with an empty-net goal in the final minute to account for the 7-5 final. 

Woll stopped 16 shots to earn the victory for the U.S.

USA Hockey to emphasize skill in building Olympic roster

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By

SA Hockey won’t use its failed past blueprints to construct a 2018 Winter Olympics roster.

Team USA, which named Jim Johannson as general manager and the University of Wisconsin’s Tony Granato as coach of its Olympic entry Friday, will have a different look when it arrives in Pyeongchang.

“We want a skilled team,” Johannson told Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News. “The game is all about skating today. We’re gonna get up and down the ice.”

Given USA Hockey’s lagging international results – including a disastrous run at last year’s World Cup, in which a hard-nosed club constructed by former Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi finished an embarrassing seventh – a change in philosophy seemed to be in order.

Johannson is a longtime member of USA Hockey who currently serves as assistant executive director of hockey operations, one of many titles he has held since 2000. The Minnesota native was the GM behind Team USA’s three gold-medal finishes at the world juniors in 2010, 2013, and 2017.

American hockey fans hope Johannson can now bring that winning track record to the Olympic stage.

Looking at Canada’s Goalie Options for Korean Olympics

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By Steven Ellis – Eurohockey.com

For the first time in recent Olympic history, Canada’s goaltending options are no longer a no-brainer. What will the two-time defending Olympic champion bring to the table this time around?

Canada hasn’t had to think very hard about their goalie options in previous international tournaments.

At the 2014 Olympics and 2016 World Cup of Hockey, the undisputed number one goalie was Carey Price. Roberto Luongo and Braden Holtby were both fully capable of being number one goalies in their respective years, but for the most part, Price was on top of the world.

But for the first time since the 1994 Olympics, the tournament that is typically known for having the best athletes in the world will be without the best hockey players due to the complaints from the NHL playing over in PyeongChang, South Korea.

So for the first time in a long time, there is no longer a clear picture on who the goaltending for Team Canada will be. They have the AHL, CHL, KHL, NLA, SHL, DEL, etc. to choose from, but considering teams like Russia and Sweden will still be strong offensively, goaltender means more than ever at the Olympics.

Canada will be taking part in at least four international tournaments in 2017 leading up to the tournament, starting with the Sochi Hockey Open and Tournament of Nikolai Puchkov in August. Canada is bringing two slightly-altered rosters for the tournaments, with the expectation that the final team will be made up players currently on the two teams.

Naturally, due to his previous experience with the team and coming off of a decent season with Dynamo Minsk in the KHL, Ben Scrivens seems to be the number one choice. Scrivens has had a few tough seasons in the NHL after stealing the show with the Los Angeles Kings back in 2013-2014 when Jonathan Quick was injured. He has played with five different teams since that wonderful stretch of action, with the Spruce Grove, Alberta native signed to play with Salavat Yulaev Ufa for the upcoming campaign.

Internationally, Scrivens is the only goalie of the three to have previous experience. In 2014, Scrivens out-played former Toronto Maple Leafs goalie partner James Reimer and earned Canada’s starting role heading into the quarter-finals. The playoff round, however, saw Canada exiting early in a match against Finland, but Scrivens proved he could be a decent goalie at the tournament.

Scrivens only saw one more season as a full-time NHLer with Edmonton before eventually spending the 2015-2016 season split between two AHL squads and the Montreal Canadiens, who might as well have been an AHL team that year.

Scrivens went on to represent Canada at the 2016 Wayne Gretzky Ice Hockey Classic in Australia in 2016, an event that features some NHLers mixed in with minor-pro players in an exhibition tournament spread out throughout Australia.

Then there is Kevin Poulin, the only goalie to represent Canada at both exhibition tournaments the team is taking place in Europe in August. Poulin hasn’t played in the NHL since December 27th, 2014 in a shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres, finding himself in the AHL for two seasons before seeing his options dry out after a stint with  Calgary’s AHL team, Stockton.

In an effort to get his career back on track, Poulin, 27, played a game with the now-defunct Laval Predateurs of the LNAH, a league known more for its thuggish nature than their skilled assassins. He finally was able to sign with the KHL’s Barys Astana in October, where he backed up former Calgary Flames netminder Henrik Karlsson.

But with the 2017-2018 season heating up in just a few weeks, Poulin finds himself without a job, which could be why he was named to two different Canadian squads. Will the international hockey virgin spend the time fully focusing on the Olympics? Who knows, but he’ll need to really steal the show after a few weak professional seasons in recent years.

Former Carolina Hurricanes, Washington Capitals and Arizona Coyotes backup Justin Peters will not likely get the call to start any games in South Korea, but could easily act as the third goalie after getting called upon for the Sochi Open tournament beginning on August 5th. Canada’s third goalie at the 2014 World Championships, Peters is also looking for his first game of action, which he will surely get in Sochi.

Peters found himself moving around quite a bit last season, playing with Arizona in the NHL and Tucson and Texas in the AHL. The two-time AHL All-Star has shown the ability to be good in short bursts, but has never really been counted on as a viable option as a starting goalie for an extended period of time.

Still, the Blyth, Ontario native is hoping to turn his career around after signing with Dinamo Minsk, who will face Canada at the 2017 Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland in December. Peters should create a strong goaltending duo with Jānis Kalniņš, a Latvian native who represented the team in 30 games a year ago. But with an Olympic opportunity at large, this is the most important season of his career to date.

Those three goalies are all pegged to represent Canada in the summer, but what other options are there out there? What about Zachary Fucale? Some Montreal Canadiens may call him a bust at 23-years-old, having being regulated to the ECHL last season, but Team Canada seems to have like him the past few years. Fucale pulled off a rare feat where he represented Canada at two separate World Junior tournaments, winning gold on home ice back in 2015.

Then, at the 2016 Spengler Cup, Fucale proved to be one of the best goalies at the tournament, enroute to Canada’s second straight championship. It was the fifth time Fucale has represented Canada in international competition, capping off a season that saw Fucale act as arguably the best goalie in Brampton Beast history.

Likely to backup Charlie Lindgren with the AHL’s Laval Rocket, Fucale has to be considered, but could be in a tough spot because the other options all come from the KHL, who, of course, will feature many players in the tournament among the many teams.

Then there’s Danny Taylor, who is fresh off of a good season in the KHL with Sibir Novosibirsk and Medvescak Zagreb. Unlike Fucale, Taylor has experience playing against the best players from the KHL, and with a likely shot at being an AHL starter with the Binghamton Senators, he’ll be given chances to show his worth.

At the 2016 Deutschland Cup with Canada, his first tournament with Canada, Taylor had significantly better stats than Jaroslav Janus and Tobias Stephan, the only other goalies to play in two games in the tournament, allowing just one goal on 49 shots against. Taylor could very likely find himself playing in the NHL at some point as a fill-in for Ottawa, however, which would negate his chances of representing the team.

Another possible name, despite being a long shot? Eric Comrie. Canada’s third goalie at the 2017 World Championships, Comrie is also no stranger to Team Canada, having represented them at the U17, U18 and U20 level. Comrie was out-played by Fucale at the 2015 World Juniors, but after two seasons with the Manitoba Moose, Comrie is ready to prove himself.

One of Winnipeg’s top prospects, Comrie will be the undisputed starting netminder for the Manitoba Moose and the Jets may want him to get playing time in the AHL instead of backing up at the Olympics, but there’s never a bad time to represent your country.

Clearly, Canada isn’t short on options between the pipes, but they’re lacking a true standout goalie option. You could argue that Carey Price is the guy Canada would have rode had NHLers been allowed at the Olympics, but that doesn’t matter at this point, does it?

Now it’s time for Canada’s forgotten suns to get the job done. And trust me, fans are going to be surprised.

Calgarian who brought hockey to Costa Rica honoured

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By Bill Kaufmann – Calgary Sun

Twenty years after he brought hockey to Central America from his Calgary hometown, the fruits of Bruce Callow’s passion for the game has been recognized by the sport’s shrine.

A crimson jersey worn by his Costa Rican-born son Anthony, a player with that country’s El Castillo Knights is set to be hoisted at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

For former Brentwood resident and Sir Winston Churchill high school graduate Callow, it’s a fitting score to mark two decades in a land better known for steamy jungles, volcanoes and basking iguanas.

And the hall of fame exhibit also reflects the increasing entrenchment of the sport in a region where it remains a novelty.

“We feel great because we’re basically celebrating 20 years of ice hockey here and we’re moving beyond survival,” said Callow, a musician and music teacher who’s lived in Costa Rica since 1992.

The teams, based in the Costa Rican town of Heradia, has also sent the hall souvenir pucks and calendars for a possible exhibit.

They’re mementos of an odyssey that began on plastic “ice,” whose unlikely existence even caught the attention of a hockey-crazy Canadian prime minister and became a weapon of hockey diplomacy at the ambassadorial level.

Bruce Callow. File photo

In 1996, four years into his new life in Costa Rica, Callow became homesick for hockey.

He’d married a local woman and had two sons to whom he wanted to impart that beloved element of his Canadian identity.

“You’d think being in the tropics would cure everything, but it doesn’t cure your urge for hockey,” he said.

The quest for a permanent hockey presence began in the humblest of surroundings — the middle of a shopping mall’s food court.

Skaters of the embryonic movement took to a plastic surface, or “viking ice” made of tiles clad in a silicon liquid.

“Maintaining it got to be a problem,” he said, adding the faux freeze didn’t impress many prospective players.

“You had to sharpen your skates all the time because it dulls them more quickly.”

Nevertheless, the arrangement had an inescapable Canadian flavour: rink boards clad in the Maple Leaf were assembled by a Canadian handyman while the effort was sponsored by a local rock radio station owned by a native of the Great White North.

It drew the startled curiosity of the locals whose idea of a goalie was a soccer netminder, said Callow.

“Kids were watching from the sides saying ‘what’s that?'” he said.

“For the kids learning to skate, it had never been done before, but they were enthusiastic.”

And it wasn’t long before the slowly-growing group which had dubbed themselves Mundo de Hockey, or hockey world, secured real ice at a pleasure rink at the Castillo Country Club.

Callow made a decision to train in the sport’s international style, which emphasizes skill over brute strength, something more palatable to Costa Ricans with an affinity for soccer.

“Their hand-to-foot coordination is superior to Canadians’,” said Callow in 2000.

Eliana Vasco Correa’s son and daughter caught the hockey bug in 2016, quickly pulling their mother into it.

“A couple of weeks later I gave it a try, and loved it,” said Correa, 35, who initial perception of the sport softened.

“When I first saw it, it was a tough and dangerous sport but once I started playing, I found out I was wrong — I felt very safe with all the protective gear.”

Though hockey’s long found traction in hot weather markets like Arizon and Florida, Correa said it remains an odd fit in Central America.

“It’s quite strange in such a tropical climate, but that is part of its charm,” she said.

Since the program’s inception, voyages to the sport’s mother country for sustenance of various types have become essential.

In 2000, the Calgary Flames anted up 20 helmets for their tropical understudies while local sporting good stores followed suit with other equipment.

A year later, the National Hockey League Players’ Association came through with 34 new sets of gear.

“We wouldn’t have gotten here if it hadn’t been for them,” Callow said of the donors.

In the summer of 2011, a particularly promising Costa Rican prospect, David Vargas, got the call from Penticton’s Okanagan Hockey Academy, which provided him with a two-week scholarship at their camp.

Right-winger Vargas, then 17 and a Sidney Crosby devotee, was thrilled by the NHL pedigree of some of its coaches.

“Since they are professional trained hockey players, of course I want to learn from the best ones,” he said at the time.

Vargas has since gone on to become a coach with the Knights, as have Callow’s sons Anthony and Kenneth.

The unlikely puck passions of his young devotees has also been rewarded by trips to Calgary where a pilgrimage to the Scotiabank Saddledome to bask in the Flames’ glow was the highlight.

This coming October, that kind of excursion will skate a stride further as eight members of the Castillo Knights take to the ice for an intermission shootout during a game between the Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

“Those kids have never seen a game before and they’ll be skating on the same ice as Sidney Crosby,” said Callow.

But it was the arrival of a special guest in Costa Rica — Canada’s best-known hockey aficionado — that had a decisive impact on the movement’s fortunes.

Then-prime minister Stephen Harper was speaking at a business leaders’ roundtable in Costa Rica in August, 2011 when Canadian ambassador Neil Reider convinced him to pay the knights a visit.

The previous year, a certificate from Harper praised the program that “provided the youth of Costa Rica with the opportunity to experience the joy of Canada’s national pastime and the world’s greatest sport.”

“Neil planted the idea early to come here — apparently the prime minister wanted to skate with us but it didn’t happen,” said Callow.

But the visit’s gravitas encouraged the Castillo Country Club to cease mulling over an expansion of the rink to actually do it.

It was completed in 2014.

“That visit was instrumental in getting our new rink built,” said Callow.

That was enough to attract new players, including a record number of female enthusiasts and a nucleus of 60 players groomed by homegrown coaches like Serge Salvador, Aurelio Cence and Jorge Castiglione.

It’s also set the stage for Costa Rica’s first hockey tournament in November when teams from Calgary, Los Angeles and Britain’s Falkland Island face off with the hometown Knights.

The latter squad was wooed by Callow through connections made when he led a group of journalists to the islands in 2012 as a staffer with the British diplomatic corps.

They’ll be up against players with a bit of individualist streak, said the movement’s founder.

“I’d call it an offensive style, a tendency to stick handle all the way to the end of the ice,” said Callow.

“I’ll say ‘hey, can you pass it to me, please?'”

It’s a request made in Spanish, or Callow’s best custom-crafted hockey Spanglish.

Burke, Brodeur, Desjardins headline management team for Canada’s Olympic squad

By Craig Hagerman – The Score

Hockey Canada unveiled the management team Tuesday that will be tasked with building the country’s Olympic roster for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.Former NHL goalie Sean Burke, currently scouting for the Montreal Canadiens, will serve as general manager, while Martin Brodeur, assistant GM of the St. Louis Blues, will be part of the management team.

Former Vancouver Canucks bench boss Willie Desjardins will coach the club.

Burke and Brodeur will work alongside Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney, president and COO Scott Smith, and vice president of hockey operations Scott Salmond.

Filling out the rest of Desjardins’ coaching staff will be assistant coaches Dave King, Scott Walker, and Craig Woodcroft.

“This is an exciting time for Hockey Canada and for our national men’s team program, and it will be an exciting season for Canadian hockey fans,” said Renney. “The goal is always to field the best possible team in all upcoming competitions, including this February when we hit the world’s biggest sporting stage in Pyeongchang. The faces on our Team Canada rosters may be different than in previous years, but the expectations will be the same; with the addition of Sean, Martin, Willie, Dave, Scott, and Craig, we have assembled some of the best hockey minds out there to help us meet those expectations of on-ice success.”

Canada’s men’s national team will participate in two tournaments in Russia this August – the Sochi Hockey Open and the Tournament of Nikolai Puchkov – as an evaluation process for choosing the final names that will head to the Olympics.

Here is a look at Canada’s roster for the Sochi Hockey Open, taking place from Aug. 6-9,

“These first two events allow us to continue a player evaluation process that began last season with our Deutschland Cup and Spengler Cup teams,” said Salmond. “We will continue to look at the best available players to us – these two tournaments being the next opportunity to see some of the talent we can select from.”

Canada is looking to capture gold in men’s hockey for the third straight games and the fourth time since 2002.

Peterborough player Mike Swift finds hockey success in South Korea

Mike Swift

By Mike Davies – Peterborough Examiner  

Mike Swift never quite reached his NHL dream but he’s making his mark in the hockey world in other ways.

Next year he’ll be on the ice with many of the world’s best at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea and 2018 IIHF World Hockey Championships in Denmark.

But the Peterborough native will not be wearing a Team Canada jersey – he’ll represent South Korea. He’ll be joined by Bryan Young, his teammate with High 1 of the Asian Hockey League. Young is an Ennismore native and former Peterborough Pete.

Swift, 30, scored the winning goal in a shootout against Ukraine that clinched second place for South Korea at the 2017 IIHF Division IA World Championship, earning a promotion to the top division next year against world powerhouses like Canada, the U.S., Russia, Sweden and Finland.

Swift moved to Korea in 2011, a year after Young, where the money is actually better for top players than in Europe and North American minor leagues with top players reported to receive upwards of $200,000 a season with all living expenses paid.

They were approached by the Korean hockey federation in 2013 to get their Korean citizenship in order to represent them internationally. With South Korea awarded the Olympics the federation wanted to ensure it iced a competitive team.

They first played for Korea in a Division IA world championship in 2014, when they lost every game and were relegated to Division 1B for 2015. Swift led the tournament in scoring in 2015 as South Korea won the tournament to get back to Division 1A for 2016. They beat Japan for the first time in their history at the 2016 tournament and finished with a 2-2-1 record. This year, they went 4-1-0, their lone loss to Austria, to earn promotion to the top division next year.

Swift says the team has come a long way since his first year when they lost every game.

“That was a real eye-opener,” said Swift. “We basically didn’t even touch the puck in five games. In that same division, four years later, we went 4-1.”

A big turning point, Swift said, was the hiring of former NHL players Jim Paek and Richard Park, both of Korean ancestry, as coaches.

“They brought a system with them and all the guys bought into the system that is working,” said Swift, one of five players on this year’s team not originally from Korea. “These guys in Korea can all skate and they can all shoot the puck, they just didn’t have a sense of direction. Now they have coaching that can tell them and they listen with the wealth of experience the coaching staff brings. All they needed was guidance. It’s part of the process of how we’ve grown.”

Korea is in a pool with Canada, Switzerland and Czech Republic for the Olympics. The NHL has stated it will not be sending its players which is a disappointment for Swift, although, he says he’ll play against NHL players at the worlds two months later.

“Obviously, you want to play against the best in the world with the NHL guys. At the same time it gives us a better chance of winning the games,” he said.

The country’s interest in hockey is growing because of the upcoming Olympics and the national team’s success, said Swift.

“We just made history moving up to the top division,” he said. “When I first came here no one knew anything about hockey. The players didn’t even really follow the NHL. Now, everyone is on their phones at practice watching the highlights or watching the games. With the time change, when I get to the rink in the morning there are NHL games on in North America. Now it’s 24/7 hockey hockey, hockey.”

Swift has become the Wayne Gretzky of the Asian Hockey League, winning the scoring title in five of his six seasons. His 208 goals in 259 games is 10 behind the league’s all-time leader Takeshi Saito who has played 493 games. Swift is 34 points behind Saito with 461. He also has 662 penalty minutes, 205 behind the career leader.

Now that he’s so close to the record Swift says he’d like to catch Saito, who is six years older and still playing.

“When I first went over to Korea I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know anything about the country, the culture but now that I’ve been there for six years it would sort of put a stamp on my career,” Swift said.

Swift, who retained his Canadian citizenship, admits pulling on a Korean national jersey took some getting used to.

“It was different. I had mixed emotions,” he said. “Four years later, it feels natural because I spend nine months a year in Korea and I’ve been there for six years. I’m living in Korea more than I do Canada where I come home for three months in the summer.”

Jamaica’s ice hockey dream includes Rangers blueliner

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By Josh Brown – Waterloo Region Record

Jamaica has produced the world’s best sprinters.

Now, the Caribbean hot spot is trying to ice a hockey team at the Olympics.

And Kitchener Rangers defenceman Elijah Roberts hopes to be there if it happens.

“Being the first to play on the team and making history would be great,” he said. “It would mean the world.”

To be clear, the chances of Jamaica sending a team to the Winter Games any time soon are about as likely as snow falling on the white sandy beaches of Montego Bay.

The tiny island nation — population

2.7 million — doesn’t even have an arena and only became an associate member of the International Ice Hockey Federation five years ago.

To gain full status, the country needs a barn and a development program in place.

But the sunny destination has produced winter miracles before.

Jamaica — seemingly against all odds — first qualified a bobsled team for the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary. The underdog story resonated with spectators and went on to inspire the movie “Cool Runnings” years later.

This is different.

Unlike the bobsled entry, Jamaica’s shinny stars — currently an Under-20 team — are trained hockey players that skate in credible outfits such as the Ontario Hockey League. Most players are Canadian or American, but all have Jamaican heritage.

Roberts was recruited by associate coach C.J. Bollers about a year ago. The Brampton native’s dad, Shelton, is from Trinidad and his mom, Vivene, hails from England; but her parents are Jamaican.

“I was pretty interested right away and wanted to get involved,” said Roberts, who has also represented Canada at the U17 World Hockey Challenge.

And he wasn’t alone.

Other up-and-comers, including five-year OHL veteran Jaden Lindo, also joined the club that is coached by Graeme Townshend, who was the first Jamaican-born player to reach the NHL.

The team plays reggae music in the dressing room and brings an easygoing attitude to the rink; but takes things seriously on the ice.

The U20 bunch headed east to Dartmouth, N.S., recently for a game against a squad made up of players from the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads and other area standouts and won 5-1.

“I think people are really surprised about the caliber and that’s good for the future and getting a rink in Jamaica,” said Roberts, 18.

And the team’s success has hockey fever heating up on the island.

“They’ve showed us examples of little kids back in Jamaica watching the game,” said Roberts. “We saw kids with Jamaican flags and that’s pretty cool. Before, they never really looked at hockey. They have embraced what we’re doing.”

Growing the game is the main goal.

“It’s important for us to get the opportunity to open the gates for Jamaicans to play hockey,” said Roberts.

If all goes right, one day that might mean a chance to play in the Olympics.

Promoting youth may be Hockey Canada’s greatest folly

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By Kaitlin Cimini – Fanrag Sports Network

Shortly after USA Hockey announced the newest women’s ice hockey national team roster, Hockey Canada made public its short list of national team players in preparation for the upcoming 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games. Its national team, like the U.S. team, will begin training together in September.

Canada’s women’s ice hockey team has earned a spot on the podium every Olympic Games, the vast majority of those medals being gold. In the past four years since the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Canada has used competitions such as the IIHF Women’s World Championships or the Four Nations Cup to test various combinations of players, systems, and plans of attack.

While those particular iterations of Team Canada have rarely taken home the gold, Canada seems to have hit upon a system that allows it to test its players in a high-pressure environment without its Olympic reputation on the line.

The roster Canada displayed at the most recent Women’s Worlds struggled to come together as a coherent team. Canada simply didn’t click for much of the tournament, dropping games to the U.S. and Finland, both times letting its opponent set the tone of the game. The Canadians constantly played catch-up.

“We’re not getting the bounces that we do, or we have,” forward Meghan Agosta told The Star after Team Canada lost to Team Finland. “It’s just been tough hockey. We’ve just got to figure it out, come back together as a team.

“This is a test. This is a test for Canada. I believe in the girls and I know we believe in each other. We have a lot of skill and a lot of talent on this team. I know we could definitely play better.”

Poulin said “we have to find a way” at least four times in less than two minutes, SportsNet’s Kristina Rutherford wrote. “I keep saying it,” she said, “but it’s true.”

“It’s not our game,” Poulin added.

The team bounced back in time to shut out Russia, but the damage was done: Team Canada had to fight to earn a way into the gold-medal game. With so many questions surrounding Canada’s discombobulated performance, eyes turned toward the roster, which proved to be disconcertingly young, built for speed and shooting but unable to consistently capitalize on the flaws in their opponents’ systems.

Clearly, the comparative youth of the roster contributed to Canada’s poor performance at Women’s Worlds, but how much responsibility does it bear for the outcome?

Canada may soon find out. While its pre-Olympic national team roster is not an exact replica of the team iced at Women’s Worlds, the similarities are striking. While Canada has added experience to its roster, it has also added even more youth, swapping out players in their early twenties for others, even incorporating some in their teens.

Defense

Erin Ambrose (23)
Renata Fast (22)
Laura Fortino (26)
Micah Hart (20)
Halli Krzyzaniak (22)
Brigitte Lacquette (24)
Jocelyne Larocque (28)
Meaghan Mikkelson (32)
Lauriane Rougeau (27)

Forwards

Meghan Agosta (30)
Bailey Bram (26)
Emily Clark (21)
Mélodie Daost (25)
Brianne Jenner (26)
Rebecca Johnston (27)
Sarah Nurse (22)
Amy Potomak (17)
Sarah Potomak (19)
Marie-Philip Poulin (26)
Jillian Saulnier (25)
Natalie Spooner (26)
Laura Stacey (23)
Blayre Turnbull (23)
Jennifer Wakefield (27)

Goaltenders

Ann-Renee Desbiens (23)
Genevieve Lacasse (28)
Shannon Szabados (30)

Nearly half of the players on this roster are 23 years of age or younger: 11 of 23. The Potomak sisters ring in at 17 and 19, respectively. The potential offensive output is tremendous, however, and may very well be what tipped the scales in their favor.

While the low median is certainly indicative of the development in the world of women’s hockey being driven largely by the NCAA and CIS systems, it still shows an extremely young roster, one without much experience at the Olympic level, ostensibly prioritizing speed and offensive output over wisdom.

Olympic gold medalist and Boston Blades captain Tara Watchorn, for example, was left off the short list for Team Canada despite her leadership skills, precise skating and large frame. While Watchorn has a number of pluses and is still one of the top 10 defenders from Canada, her game is defense-driven and her footspeed is not on the same level as those who made this roster.

Prioritizing speed and shooting over experience may come back to bite Canada, as it did at Women’s Worlds. Team Canada has a little over six months to get its team into Olympic shape… and prove that its youth-driven approach can work.

Jamaican ice hockey team gets an assist from Nanaimo

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By Greg Sakaki – Nanaimo News Bulletin

A Nanaimo resident is helping to bring hockey from one island to another.

Donovan Tait is a Nanaimo RCMP sergeant, and in his spare time, he’s a scout and advisor with the Jamaican Olympic Ice Hockey Team.

Tait has been involved with the organization behind the scenes for a number of years, but only recently has the executive decided to publicize its efforts. A Jamaican U20 team will participate in a hockey tournament in Nova Scotia next month and Tait will be part of the contingent.

“I’m very excited to be going to Nova Scotia and cheering them on, for sure, and [doing] anything I can do to help,” he said. “It’s 30 years too late for me to play, but I can certainly help.”

Tait was born in Canada and grew up on Vancouver Island, but lived in Jamaica as a child, has Jamaican heritage and travels there at least once a year.

“My mom and dad, it was very important to them that me and my brother and sister really knew Jamaica and were always connected there,” he said.

Tait is taking on a few different tasks with the Jamaican Olympic Ice Hockey Federation, including publicity. He was in Jamaica last month and found himself on a radio show talking to a caller about a Zamboni.

“When it gets to Jamaica, it’s going to be the Jam-boni,” came the reply.

Jamaicans like to have a laugh, Tait said, but the hockey team isn’t meant to be a joke or a gimmick to sell T-shirts – the group is earnest in its efforts. While he was in Jamaica, Tait met with the federal minister of sport and with the vice-president of the country’s Olympic committee. Jamaica has been granted associate-member status with the International Ice Hockey Federation, though it can’t become a full member until there is an ice rink in the country, a league and youth programs. Tait has had discussions with various groups and thinks it will take private investment to build an arena; he suggested a partnership with a resort might be realistic.

“If we were to build a rink, I think there’d be a lineup of kids wanting to try and compete on an Olympic stage,” Tait said.

For now, the hockey team is mostly comprised of Canadian kids who have Jamaican heritage.

“It’s very important to the common Jamaican that this team does have some credibility being Jamaican. [The] Canadian kids, they need to establish their Jamaican citizenship and the people in Jamaica are very sensitive to that,” Tait said. “They’re seeing kids wearing a Jamaica jersey and playing hockey … but they really want to know that these kids have a connection to the island.”

Next month’s event in Nova Scotia isn’t just a showcase, but is meant to celebrate diversity in sport. The tournament is a Canada 150 project and will recall the Coloured Hockey League that operated in the Maritimes from 1895-1930. Graeme Townshend, who was the NHL’s first Jamaican-born player, is coach of the Jamaican Olympic Ice Hockey Team and Willie O’Ree, the NHL’s first black player is, like Tait, an advisor with the federation.

Tait said it will be meaningful to see the team take the ice next month. His parents are “fiercely proud” of where they come from and Tait is “completely passionate” about Jamaican hockey.

“We love this country and we are Canadians no matter what,” he said. “But to say I can help build a national team in the country where my parents were born … I will continue to do it for free and off the side of my desk for a long time.”

Meet Claudia Téllez, the Woman Turning Mexican Ice Hockey into an Olympic Powerhouse

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By Kate Clmini – Remezcla.com

Claudia Téllez sat in her parents’ home in Guadalajara, a fedora perched on her head, ready for an early morning interview on one of her rare days off. A career in hockey is something she’s chased for what feels like her entire adult life, and this is a part of it she takes on willingly—gladly—even if it means giving up some of her precious vacation time.  

Téllez is the international face of Mexican women’s ice hockey. How she got to this point has taken nothing short of a leap of faith.

“When I was younger, Guadalajara didn’t have women’s hockey and my family didn’t like that I wanted to play hockey,” Téllez said. “It was for boys, and so on. My father’s a basketball player and my mother played volleyball so they thought I’d take up one of those sports. That’s not how it went, though.” While Téllez started out in basketball, she soon learned about an inline hockey team when a friend of hers organized a game of street hockey at a nearby rink for her own birthday celebration.

“I had a street hockey stick,” Téllez recalled. “One of those with the wooden handle and a plastic blade—Franklin, I think, was the brand. The four of us went to play at the rink, and just by chance, there was a group of PeeWees, training for a national competition.” Téllez was captivated. She ran home afterwards to break the news to her parents: she wanted to play inline hockey.

“My mother said, ‘if you pay for it…’” Téllez grinned. She worked an after-school job to afford her equipment and team fees, dropping basketball for good. Her natural talent was obvious, and she soon made it to the national inline team. Twelve years later, when Mexico started its own women’s ice hockey initiative, she was asked if she would be interested in making the jump to ice hockey at the age of 29.

It’s an understatement to say Téllez was somewhat reluctant.

“I didn’t like it,” Téllez said of learning to ice skate. “I dominated in roller hockey. On rollerblades…yeah, I dominated. And so, when I switched over to ice….My coach in Guadalajara was like, ‘You have to play!’ ‘I don’t want to!’ ‘You have to!’ So, I got on the ice and tried to do the same thing I did on wheels. I went flying, I hit the boards. It was a little frustrating because I couldn’t do the same stuff I was used to on rollerblades.

“I wanted to stop…and I’d go flying,” said Téllez. “I wanted to cut to the side and stop…and I’d go flying. I wanted to pivot…and I’d go flying. I mean, it happened to all the girls who made the changeover, but I still hated it at first.”

Téllez stuck with it, though. She saw the same opportunity Mexico did: the chance to make the Olympics. With such a small field of competition on the women’s side of ice hockey, Mexico stood a much greater chance of making the Olympics in women’s hockey than in men’s. The Mexican ice hockey federation began pouring everything they had into the sport with the goal of making the shortlist for the 2018 Olympic Games. Although only eight teams including the host country are invited to participate, Mexico stood a good chance. Many of the players, Téllez included, relocated to Mexico City to train full-time. She lived in government-supported athlete housing and supplemented her income by working as a manager for the Mexican Ice Hockey federation.

Although she quickly made a name for herself on the ice, Téllez truly made her mark on the business side of Mexican ice hockey. She was charged with organizing the first Pan-American games—the first Latin American ice hockey tournament—which was something she undertook not just to advance ice hockey in Latin America, but also because it was important for the development of Mexican sports in general. Téllez sees events like the Pan-American as an opportunity for Mexico to advance itself as a leader while also growing hockey domestically.

“I believe Mexico has the capacity to advance the most [out of all the countries participating in women’s hockey at the international level] because our neighbors are the U.S. and Canada,” said Téllez. “I see a ton of talent on this side, support by our governing body, families, by private investors. I think that Mexico can achieve a lot of things.”

Team Mexico may have fallen nearly 15 spots short of its stated goal of making the Olympics only four years after launching its first official women’s ice hockey program, but Téllez is extremely proud of her team and what it has achieved in such a short period of time. Team Mexico recently played its way up three spots to a berth in division IIA, making it that much closer to a spot in the 2022 Olympic rotation. At no. 29 in the world, Mexico still has quite a ways to go, but the future is bright.

“I think we’ve had a good start,” Téllez said. “We knew it would be complicated. We’re throwing ourselves at our new division. We knew that the higher in the rankings we went, the more complicated it would be but, well, it’s the foundation for future Olympic cycles. Imagine how good they’ll be in three whole years with the new vision, the new motivation to get to an even higher division than we’re in right now.

Mexico will now face off against teams such as Great Britain, Australia and South Korea, programs that were birthed several few Olympic cycles ago and have shown steady growth since, thanks to the dedication of their players. South Korea in particular will prove even tougher competition after training for and competing in the upcoming 2018 Olympics as the host country. Playing against teams of this caliber will likely help Mexico launch itself even further.

We’re already thinking about how to win, not just maintain our position in this division,” Téllez said. “I think our experience and understanding the level of work necessary will help us, too.”

“In our first Worlds, we finished in second place,” said Téllez. “Nobody believed in Team Mexico. We came in seeded second the following year, 2016, and finished in fourth. That experience stuck with us, because we thought we would be able to accomplish more, but I think that was a reflection of our level of experience.”

Now, having tasted victory, the team is both motivated to keep winning and anxious to start training. Téllez, the coaches, the federation are all on the same page, all putting their best into this next stage.

The Olympics aren’t her only goal; Téllez also applied for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League draft last summer, where she was drafted by the Calgary Inferno, the winners of the 2016 Clarkson Cup. This made her the first Mexican woman ever drafted by the CWHL. Téllez ended up making the Inferno’s reserve squad, spending much of the year in training, flying out to Calgary for chunks of the season to practice with the team in hopes of making the first squad this season.

“Since I was a kid I had it in my head that I wanted to play in the Olympics,” she said. “Maybe that dream won’t come true; I don’t know. Maybe I’ll make it to the next Olympic cycle, but I don’t know. I want to make it to the highest level in my sport. That’s what motivates me. Every step I climbed made me want to go even higher. So, I cross myself and go. I keep pushing forward.”

What’s next on the docket for Téllez? She’ll participate in the Pan-American Games in June, then she’ll attend a hockey camp in Canada this summer. Along the way, she’ll look to get in the best shape possible, train some more in Mexico, then head to Calgary’s training camp in September with the goal of making the first team.

In the meantime, she’ll look for opportunities to rest, in between workouts and matches and interviews like this one. When I ask her when she’ll find the time to rest, Téllez laughed. “That’s why I’m in Guadalajara today.”

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