- Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports2 days ago
TORONTO — Last year in Calgary, Mathew Dumba was on the verge of tears – eyes welling and red – after being told he had been one of Team Canada’s final cuts for the World Junior Hockey Championship in Ufa, Russia.
His suitcases were already packed and waiting for him as he sorrowfully climbed the staircase to meet the media like the many players who had preceded him. There were a few questions, including “How disappointing is it to be cut?” There were a few short answers in response before Dumba was whisked out a back door straight into a van headed for the airport.
Even reality TV contestants receive a more dignified sendoff. It was crushing to watch.
This year however, Hockey Canada has shown some heart by changing a process that was heartless in the way it handled letting teenagers know they weren’t good enough to play for Canada at the world juniors. A smaller camp, only 25 players, means fewer kids will have their hearts broken on national TV. And with head coach Brent Sutter open to the possibility that cuts could be made over in Europe before rosters are set on Christmas Day, it could be less of a spectacle than usual.
- Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports8 days ago
- Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports26 days ago
Brendan Gaunce has never been one for whining.
He’s never been a prima donna. He’s never been the kind of player who needed constant coddling by coaches.
For someone still in his teenage years, Gaunce is astute and surprisingly pragmatic.
Take, for instance, this summer when the first-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks was knocked during a radio interview Team 1040 by Team Canada’s world junior coach, Brent Sutter after Gaunce attended the national team’s camp.
“He’s a big guy and he’s a ways away from being a pro player yet,” said Sutter of Gaunce, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound centre.
“He’s a very defensive-oriented guy as far as understanding the game. He knows his limits offensively, but he’s a big power forward who’s a decent skater and he’s got some good skills. But I see him more as a third- or fourth-line player in the National Hockey League, more of a power guy.”
Not exactly the kind of confidence-inducing talk you want to hear from a man who both played and coached in the NHL. The comments came as a surprise, though Gaunce said he tried not to pay much attention to them.
- Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo! Sports3 mths ago
HALIFAX— Nikolaj Ehlers has never been short of advice when it comes to playing hockey, having grown up around the sport.
His father, Heinz Ehlers, is a former pro player in Europe who was a draft pick of the New York Rangers in 1984. After his pro career, he moved into coaching and he’s currently head coach of HC Lausanne in the top Swiss league.
Ehlers’ older brother, Sebastian, 20, plays hockey professionally in their native Denmark and has represented his country nationally at the world junior championship.
But, according to the Halifax Mooseheads forward, there’s one person that holds the most sway when it comes to breaking down his game.
His 14-year-old sister, Caroline.
“She’s actually my head coach at home,” said Ehlers, who was selected by Halifax with the sixth overall pick in June’s CHL import draft. “She watches every game and she really knows hockey. When I come home she always says, ‘You did that wrong or you did that right.’ She’s amazing.”
As you can imagine, hockey talk pretty much dominates the discussion around the Ehlers’ dinner table.
- Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo! Sports3 mths ago
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — There was a time when the world looked at Canada as a step ahead of the pack when it came to the world junior championship.
The last time Canada won gold was in 2009. At the 2013 tournament in Ufa, Russia, the Canadians were sent home without a medal of any kind for the first time since 1998.
And the world has taken notice.
"You don't have to be God to beat them," said Finnish goaltender Juuse Saros of Team Canada. "It gives hope that guys will beat them."
Canada's greatest shortcoming at the tournament of late has been in net, where the nation has failed to find the kind of lights-out, big game goaltending – a la Carey Price, Justin Pogge, or even Dustin Tokarski who struggled in the round robin, but won gold in 2009 – to finish first.
Former NHL goaltender Sean Burke was recently hired as a part of Hockey Canada's management group for the under-17, 18 and 20 programs. He said the world is quickly catching up to Canada.
NEWARK, N.J. -- Kathy MacKinnon has the kind of boisterous laugh that can fill a room. When you hear it you can’t help but smile, because there’s something strangely comforting about it – like a hug from a parent. Her daughter, Sarah, fittingly describes it as genuine.
On Sunday, Kathy MacKinnon cried. They were tears of joy as her son, Nathan, had been selected first overall at the NHL Entry Draft by the Colorado Avalanche. Upon hearing his name, MacKinnon stood up and hugged his father, Graham, first before moving on to Kathy and then Sarah.
They were the first people he thanked when speaking to the media after his selection.
“It was so nice that my dad was the first person I got to hug here along with my mother and sister,” said MacKinnon, wearing his new Avs jersey. “I’m so fortunate to have such a great family. I wouldn’t be here without them and I’m glad that they’re here with me in New Jersey.”
The MacKinnons were watching their son complete a major step en route to his dream of one day playing in the NHL.
“That’s the most special thing about this experience,” said Kathy. “It’s the “pinch-me” moment, that your child is living his dream. There’s no other way to describe it.”
NEW YORK — Ville Nieminen remembers the day clearly. It was September, 2, 1995 and he was playing hockey in his native Tappara, Finland, when his Russian linemate, Alexander Barkov, came bursting through the dressing-room doors before practice. It was good news.
“He said, ‘We had a baby boy this morning!'” says Nieminen.
“I said, ‘Congratulations!’”
The Barkovs named their baby boy, Aleksander, after his father though they quickly adopted the Russian short form, Sasha.
Sasha Barkov remembers his first meeting with Nieminen, whose pro career included eight seasons with seven different NHL clubs. He was an 8-year-old playing street hockey outside his family’s home with a few neighbourhood kids.
“It was the (NHL) lockout, so (Nieminen) came to Tappara to play,” Barkov says, speaking on a late June afternoon. “I was playing with my friend outside and he came with his son and we all started to play hockey together. That was the first time I met him.”
As a kid, having a real, live NHLer in their midst playing street hockey was a dream come true.
“I was a very big NHL fan,” says Barkov. “I dreamed about the NHL and when he came I was like...”
There are no words. He drops his jaw and gasps.
Growing up, he was a runt. He was much smaller than all the other forwards on his hockey teams and the smallest member of his family, too. According to his minor hockey coach, his skill set as a forward was average. By his own account, he was lazy and out of shape.
He is Andrew O’Brien: The pudgy, small, slow skater who told his doubters and detractors to shove it. The player who grew into a behemoth, found focus and discipline, and ended up with an NHL contract.
“I like proving people wrong,” said O’Brien, who in April signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Anaheim Ducks. “It’s something I’ve been doing my whole life.”
When he was 16, he was 5-foot-9 and playing forward with the midget AA Humber Valley Sharks in the Greater Toronto Hockey League. It was one of the rare times he says he questioned whether or not he wanted to pursue hockey. O’Brien’s fitness wasn’t where it needed to be and the idea of hitting the gym was met with indifference. His parents, John and Mary, told him he needed to get serious. They told him he needed to get his act together, but he was impatient and immature.
He can’t remember how old he was, 13 perhaps, the first time he was asked to do an interview. What Nathan MacKinnon does remember is being nervous. The interview was going to be on television and he was intimidated.
Even at that tender age, people knew there was something special about the kid from Cole Harbour, N.S., when it came to hockey. He was scoring at a ridiculous rate – 110, 200 points in a single season – and he lived in the Halifax suburb in the shadow of a neighbourhood kid named Sid. Like Penguins star Sidney Crosby, MacKinnon grew up playing in the same minor hockey system. And, and at age 14, MacKinnon followed the same path as the NHL’s current shiniest star and went to play at Shattuck St. Mary’s, a prestigious prep school in Minnesota.
So, long before he suited up for Team Atlantic at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge as a 15-year-old, the comparisons to Crosby had been made. People in the know had already set him up as a potential first-overall NHL pick despite being years away from the draft. MacKinnon had been anointed The Next Crosby .