It’s almost an embarrassment of hockey talent on the ice in Calgary this week.
First-round NHL draft picks? How about 20 of them (and nine more taken in Round 2). First-round CHL draft picks? There’s 111, including nine chosen at No. 1. IIHF World Junior Championship gold medallists? Four.
As far as Hockey Canada is concerned, though, the individual and team accolades are great, but they mean nothing, at least not while 193 of the country’s top players are participating in the National Teams’ Summer Showcase.
The camp, which runs from July 29 to Aug. 6 at the Markin MacPhail Centre at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park, marks the first time Hockey Canada has brought together its three summer camps – under-17 (110 players), under-18 (43 players) and under-20 (40 players).
“From a player’s perspective, it allows them to sort of measure themselves to each other and to the next generation and see where they stand,” says Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada’s vice-president of hockey operations and national teams. “(And) it’s a little bit of the same for the coaches. They get to share ideas and see what the coaches from the other levels are doing differently.
“For our scouts and even from a fan’s perspective, it allows them to see the top 15- to 19-year-old players in the country all in one place, during the same period of time, which is a truly unique opportunity.”
Organizing hotels, meals and ice time for every age group (there are more than 80 staff, in addition to the 193 players) presents a potential logistical nightmare for Hockey Canada’s high performance staff, but the benefits are just too hard to ignore.
And while each camp has its own purpose – the U17 and U20 camps are strictly development, while the U18 camp decides the team that represents Canada at the U18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup in the Czech Republic and Slovakia – the main focus remains the same.
“At the under-17 level, it’s about exposing the players and introducing them to each other and to our concepts,” says Salmond. “At the under-18 level, it becomes more about educating them, so that when they reach the under-20 level it’ll be about executing.”
All in all, it’s about The Canadian Way, born out of Canada’s dominating successes at both the 2014 Olympic Winter Games and 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
It’s about establishing a winning mentality, a strong work ethic and an unprecedented dedication to the game from every player, regardless of who they are and what role they play.
While on-ice performance still matters, as it should, Salmond, director of player personnel Ryan Jankowski and the respective coaching staffs have built off-ice components that help decide a player’s Team Canada future.
To make it simple, there are four pillars that Hockey Canada emphasizes during its national team camps: education, technical preparation, physical preparation and creating an environment for success.
“There is a certain way we want our players to play and a certain way we want them to act as part of our program and that’s all part of their evaluation,” says Salmond. “We want to build a culture, create a level of expectation and cultivate that family atmosphere that is present within championship teams.”
That’s why one of the first messages given to players when they arrive at camp is that it doesn’t matter where they’re from, how many goals they’ve scored, or where they were drafted. When it’s all over, Hockey Canada will select players that will help its teams win, and that are open to accepting their roles, while willingly making sacrifices to become world-class players.
“This camp is the first step,” says Salmond. “It’s the first step towards the 2015-16 season, it’s the first step towards international success, and it’s the first step towards building an even stronger Program of Excellence. It has been a long road, and there have been a lot of changes, but we’re so excited about the path we’re on.”
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