CALGARY — Tim Hunter gets to coach the Canadian junior men’s hockey team in a city where he was an NHL player for several seasons.
Hunter will be behind Canada’s bench at the 2019 world junior men’s hockey championship in both Vancouver, where Hunter played from 1992 to 1996, and Victoria. The tournament opens Dec. 26 in both cities.
After two years as an assistant coach for Canada, the 57-year-old Calgarian will oversee a team attempting to defend the gold won at the 2018 championship in Buffalo..
“To represent your country at any time, at any level, and to be the head coach, it’s a real honour,” Hunter said Tuesday on a conference call.
“What I’ve learned … over the past two years is going to take me a long way to help me through this process.”
Hunter led the Moose Jaw Warriors to a regular-season title this past season in his fourth year coaching the Western Hockey League team.
Prior to joining the Warriors, he was an assistant coach in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs, San Jose Sharks and Washington Capitals.
“Without question the right person to lead this group and to look to defend a gold medal in Canada in Vancouver where Tim was a player,” said Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada’s vice-president of hockey operations and national teams.
Hunter played 815 NHL games over 16 seasons with Vancouver, Calgary, Quebec and San Jose. The forward was primarily an enforcer and policeman for teams’ stars, and won a Stanley Cup in 1989 with Calgary.
Canada has won gold 17 times in the 42-year history of the world men’s under-20 championship.
Marc-Andre Dumont of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, Jim Hulton of the Charlottetown Islanders and Brent Kisio of the Lethbridge Hurricanes round out Hunter’s coaching staff.
Canada will play its Pool A preliminary-round games at Rogers Arena in Vancouver and will remain there should the host country advance to the quarter-finals and medal games.
Hunter, his assistants and Hockey Canada management will evaluate Canadian players July 28 to Aug. 4 in Kamloops, B.C., at the Sportchek World Junior Showcase featuring Canada, Finland, Sweden and the United States.
“I played in Vancouver,” Hunter said. “I know the passion of fans there and the island, the same, the Western Hockey League with Kamloops. All those fans are passionate hockey fans.”
Hunter was an assistant to Dominique Ducharme both in Buffalo and at the 2017 championship co-hosted by Montreal and Toronto. Canada took silver in a shootout loss to the U.S. in 2017.
“One of the biggest things is creating a team that has a group of players willing to play their own role and getting used to playing a role that’s different than their club teams in junior hockey,” Hunter said. “Getting them to buy in and give themselves up to being coached in that situation.
“It’s really important that’s communicated early and we did a really good job of that the last two years. I look to do the same here with this group.”
The 2019 tournament will be a showcase of the world’s best male hockey players born in 1999 or later. Canada has three forwards eligible to return from the 2018 squad: Maxime Comtois, Ottawa Senators prospect Alex Formenton and Robert Thomas.
Vancouver Canucks prospect Michael DiPietro of the Windsor Spitfires is the front-runner to be Canada’s starting goaltender.
He was among the last players cut from the 2018 junior team and was Canada’s third goaltender at the world men’s hockey championship in May.