Canada’s team began preparations Tuesday for the 2.0 edition of the 2022 world junior men’s hockey championship in Edmonton.
The 10-country tournament will be minus Russia barred from participating by the International Ice Hockey Federation because of that country’s invasion of Ukraine.
The initial 2022 championship in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta., was called off Dec. 29 after just four days because of rising COVID-19 cases among players and officials, which forced game forfeitures.
Hockey Canada hosts this world juniors under the shadow of federal government scrutiny and a wave of public criticism for its handling of alleged sexual assaults by members of previous junior men’s teams in 2018 and 2003.
‘We have a big weight on our shoulders for sure’
Enhanced character screening for all high-performance players was among a slate of remedies Hockey Canada announced in an action plan last month.
“We have a big weight on our shoulders for sure,” said forward Mason McTavish, who was named Canada’s captain Tuesday when camp opened in Calgary.
“We have the opportunity to, not obviously clear the name, but maybe help improve and bring back… it’s Canada and the world juniors is such an awesome event for Canadians especially. We have a great opportunity to… help improve and take another step toward getting back to where we were.”
Captains for <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/WorldJuniors?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#WorldJuniors</a>… 🇨🇦<br><br>C: Mason McTavish (<a href=”https://twitter.com/HEOhockey?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@HEOhockey</a>)<br>A: Kent Johnson (<a href=”https://twitter.com/BCHockey_Source?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@BCHockey_Source</a>)<br>A: Donovan Sebrango (<a href=”https://twitter.com/OHFHockey?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@OHFHockey</a>)<br><br>Hear from Captain Canada! 🗣️👇 <a href=”https://t.co/OXvrPsNRmj”>pic.twitter.com/OXvrPsNRmj</a>
The 25 players named to the junior roster Monday participated in a code of conduct seminar that night delivered by Hockey Canada director of sport safety Natasha Johnston.
Another session on sexual violence conducted by the Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse was scheduled for Tuesday.
The IIHF’s men’s under-20 event is considered a showcase of the planet’s top male under-19 hockey talent.
The IIHF has allowed players born in 2002 who have turned 20, to remain eligible to participate in the summer redo.
Canada brings back familiar faces from December’s tournament
Cameron returns as Canada’s head coach in a different scenario without a selection camp and a major championship to be played midsummer after a short camp.
“A little bit weird to be honest with you,” Cameron said at the Tsuut’ina Nation’s 7 Chiefs Sportsplex. “Two good things about this for me is I don’t have to cut anybody. That’s the hardest part of this job when you have to send kids home. And the second part of it is I know the bulk of the players.”
The goaltending trio of Dylan Garand, Sebastian Cossa and Brett Brochu is back, but the roster underwent nine player changes from the December lineup.
Previous captain Kaiden Guhle and top defenceman Owen Power did not return. Neither did forward Shane Wright, the No. 4 pick in last month’s NHL draft, or Winnipeg Jets forward Cole Perfetti.
“We’ve only got eight days to get ready for it, which is a little less than usual,” Bedard said. “I think everyone is coming in with the mindset of trying to win a gold medal. We’re doing all we can in practice and in the gym these first couple days to start that goal off.”
Jack Thompson, who didn’t participate in December’s selection camp because of COVID-19 quarantine, and Daemon Hunt were added to the August lineup on defence.
Tyson Foerster, Nathan Gaucher, Riley Kidney, Zack Ostapchuk, Brennan Othman, William Dufour and Joshua Roy draw in at forward for Wright, Perfetti, Xavier Bourgeault, Mavrik Bourque, Jake Neighbours, Justin Sourdif and Dylan Guenther.
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Cameron wouldn’t comment on players who opted out.
“I’m just concentrating on the guys I’ve got here,” he said.
Garand is the lone player returning from the Canadian team that earned world junior silver in Edmonton in 2021.
“There’s a little more scrutiny on the tournament this year being kind of the first world juniors since the allegations and stuff,” Garand said.
“For us and our team, we’re just here to focus on hockey and ultimately win a gold medal is our goal.”