Hockey Canada has some big shoes to fill and the longer it takes to find the right fit, the more difficult it’s going to be for its national junior squad to build a team capable of a gold-medal performance at the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championship.
The national governing body is still trying to replace head scout Al Murray, who left his post last month to become the director of amateur scouting for the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. Murray, known for his keen eye when it came to judging talent, had been Canada’s head scout for both the world junior squad and under-18 teams since 2007.
No one will miss him more than Canadian head coach Dave Cameron, who worked with Murray as an assistant coach with the junior program and with the under-18 summer squad. During Murray’s tenure as head scout, Canada won back-to-back world junior titles in 2008 and 2009 and an under-18 championship in 2008.
“I’m going to miss him big time,” said Cameron, head coach the OHL’s Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors.
“He’s a class guy. Not only did he have a good eye for talent, but he was very accurate. The one thing about Al is that he would come into meetings and when he sat down, he told you about each player and exactly what that player was going to bring to you and he was accurate. As all us hockey guys would do, we would argue, you know, “I don’t see that” or stuff like that and Al was always very firm, but he left the decision up to you. “
“Al would always say, ‘You’re the coach, you decide because you will have to live with the results and the decision,’” said Team Canada assistant coach Andre Tourigny.
Tourigny, who had worked with Murray over the past three years, says his only concern about the new hire is the timing with the three major junior leagues beginning their seasons in September. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League opens Thursday night with the Moncton Wildcats hosting the Acadie-Bathurst Titans.
“We need to have time to know each other,” said Tourigny, head coach of the QMJHL’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. “At the same time, Canada is the best country in the world hockey-wise so Hockey Canada will find the right guy to be the head scout.”
Cameron said Thursday he had spoken with Hockey Canada officials who told him they were still going through the hiring process.
Canada begins the 2011 world junior championships on Dec. 26 against Russia in Buffalo, N.Y. The Canadians, who lost a 6-5 overtime decision to the U.S. in the tournament final on home ice last year, find themselves in a very tough Group B alongside Czech Republic, Norway, Russia and last year’s bronze medalists, Sweden. And while looking for Murray’s replacement might add another layer of pressure on Hockey Canada’s staff, Tourigny says that’s not possible.
“I don’t think we can add any more pressure,” said Tourigny with a laugh. “At the same time it’s a new situation, we’re used to being with Al Murray and the crew, but we’re all pros and we’ll all work together so I think that will be a good fit.”
Canada also lost first-time assistant coach Bob Boughner over the summer when the former bench boss of the Windsor Spitfires left the program after taking an assistant coaching job with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. Boughner was replaced by Belleville Bulls head coach George Burnett, who recently won gold as head coach of Canada’s under-18 team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in the Czech Republic.
Sunaya Sapurji is the Jr. Hockey Editor at Yahoo! Sports. You can reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org