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Hay to lead Canada's world junior team 17 years later

The Canadian Press

5/26/2011 8:54:40 PM

CALGARY -- When Don Hay last coached Canada at the world junior hockey championship, his players didn't have cell phones or handheld video games.

He will be in charge of a different kind of player 17 years later when he steps behind Canada's bench at the 2012 world juniors in Edmonton and Calgary.

The 57-year-old from Kamloops, B.C., who last coached Canada's junior squad in 1995, is prepared for that. Hay has dealt with teenagers the last six years as head coach of the Western Hockey League's Vancouver Giants and knows today's players want a mentor, not a drill sergeant.

"You have to change with the times or else you get left behind," Hay said Thursday after his appointment. "The players now are a lot different than '95.

"You have to change with them and adapt to them and challenge them the same way you would players of a different generation, but also you have to tell them why you are doing things a little bit more. You have to explain why this is going to make them better players and make us a better team."

Hay's powerhouse team for the 1995 world junior tournament in Red Deer, Alta., went undefeated, thanks in large part to an NHL lockout that made available the country's best players under the age of 20.

That team and the 2005 squad, which was also enhanced by a second NHL lockout, are considered Canada's most dominant junior teams.

"What (Hay) did back in 1995 right back in this province, we'd like him to try and repeat what he did in 1995," Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson said.

The gold in 1995 came in the middle of a five-year run of titles for Canada. The country tied that record with another five consecutive gold medals between 2005 and 2009.

But Canada is coming off back-to-back silver medals and has only one goal in mind in 2012.

"I've got the fire," Hay said. "I want that opportunity to coach the best players in Canada and against the best players around the world.

"Our first objective will be to win a gold medal at the world juniors. I look forward to the challenge knowing full well the tournament is going to come down to one or two key moments in any game."

George Burnett of the Belleville Bulls and Ryan Huska of the Kelowna Rockets, Dave Cameron's assistant coaches at the 2011 tournament in Buffalo, N.Y., and are back to serve under Hay. Pascal Vincent of the Montreal Juniors was also named to the coaching staff Thursday.

They and Hockey Canada head scout Kevin Prendergast will invite about 44 players to a summer development camp in August in Edmonton. The coaches will choose the Canadian team from a December selection camp in Calgary.

Hay has coached in the NHL and minor-pro levels, but has been most successful in the major junior ranks.

The Giants have twice been to the Memorial Cup and won it in 2007 under Hay. Hay also coached the Kamloops Blazers to back-to-back Memorial Cup titles in 1994 and 1995.

He's one of only five WHL coaches with 500 victories and was named the league's coach of the year twice.

Hay was head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes in 1996-97 and the Calgary Flames in 2000-01.

He also spent three seasons behind the bench of the American Hockey League's Utah Grizzlies before he was hired by the Giants and led them to a league title in his first season.

His Giants teams have produced such NHL players as Boston forward Milan Lucic and Atlanta Thrashers forwards Andrew Ladd and Evander Kane.

While Hay may have had the cream of Canada's crop to work with in 1995, he still had his challenges. He cut Brett Lindros from the team in favour of Eric Daze, which was a controversial move at the time.

After beating the U.S. 8-3 in Red Deer, the Canadian team gutted out a crucial 7-5 win over the Czech Republic in their next game in Calgary.

"We came in here and I knew early we were flat," Hay recalled. "To find a way to win a game when you're not at your best, it challenges the coach and challenges the players."

Many of those players who went onto a pro career have retired, including Daze, Darcy Tucker, Jason Allison, Jeff O'Neill, Todd Harvey, Alexandre Daigle, Shean Donovan, Lee Sorochan, Jason Botterill and goaltenders Jamie Storr and Dan Cloutier.

Defencemen Bryan McCabe and Ed Jovanovski and forward Ryan Smyth and are still in the NHL.

Hockey Canada also announced Thursday its coaching staff for the Canadian men's under-18 team that will participate in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in August.

Steve Spott of the Kitchener Rangers was named head coach. He'll be assisted by Mario Duhamel of the Drummondville Voltigeurs and Don Nachbauer of the Spokane Chiefs.