Benoit Groulx will lead the Canadian junior men’s hockey team in the drive for five straight gold.
The head coach of the Gatineau Olympiques has been named the next coach of the national squad for the 2009 world under-20 championship in Ottawa, where Canada will attempt to match the record run of five consecutive gold from 1992 to 1997.
“The expectation of this team is no different than previous years,” Groulx said Friday during a conference call.
“When you coach Canada’s under-20 team, everyone expects you to win gold. Everyone expects you to be successful. We believe this is an opportunity to tie the record with a fifth straight gold medal.”
Canada opens defence of its title Dec. 26 against the Czech Republic at Scotiabank Place.
Groulx, 40, has coached Gatineau to three Quebec Major Junior Hockey League titles in the last six years.
He was an assistant to Brent Sutter during last summer’s Super Series against Russia, in which Canada posted a 7-0-1 record.
Ten players from Canada’s Super Series are age eligible (born in 1989 or later) to play in the 2009 world junior tournament, although a few of them won’t because they’ll be in the NHL next season.
But the remaining veterans will have a familiar face on the coaching staff and that was important to Hockey Canada.
“That was certainly one of the key points, but we wanted to choose the person who could best lead the team,” Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson said.
“Benoit’s involvement in the Super Series helped us make up our minds.”
Players eligible to play in the world junior tournament for a second straight year include defencemen Logan Pyett, Thomas Hickey, Drew Doughty and Luke Schenn and forwards Zach Boychuk, Brandon Sutter, Colton Gillies, Kyle Turris and John Tavares.
Dana Tyrell was part of Canada’s Super Series team, but did not play in the 2008 world junior tournament.
Groulx was an assistant to Dave Cameron in 2004 with Canada’s under-18 team that won a gold medal at the Junior World Cup.
Cameron, the head coach of the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors, will be his assistant in Ottawa along with Medicine Hat Tigers head coach Willie Desjardins.
Groulx, Cameron, Desjardins and Hockey Canada scout Al Murray will evaluate 40 players at a camp in Calgary in August. The camp roster is expected to be announced next week.
About 36 will be invited to a selection camp in December and 22 will be chosen for the team.
While Groulx has seen a few candidates play internationally, he’s not guaranteeing any jobs yet.
“I know many of them, but at the same time there’s more than 40 players coming to summer camp and it’s going to be wide open.”
Craig Hartsburg, who coached Canada the last two years and who was an assistant to Brent Sutter in 2006, is the new head coach of the Ottawa Senators and had said prior to his hiring he wouldn’t return to the junior team.
The other leading candidate to coach the Canadians this year was Peter DeBoer, until he was hired by the NHL’s Florida Panthers.
The 2009 world junior tournament was sold out in January. The highest-rated programs in the history of TSN have been world junior games.
The challenge for Groulx and his assistants is to isolate the players from the hype and distractions in Ottawa.
“It’s all about preparation and it’s something we’re going to have to discuss: where we’re going to stay and what we’re going to do to be successful,” Groulx said.
Meanwhile, Hockey Canada also announced its coaching staff for the country’s under-18 team Friday.
Canada will participate in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial, formerly the Junior World Cup, in the Czech Republic and Slovakia from Aug. 12 to 16.
Bill Peters, coach of the Memorial Cup champion Spokane Chiefs, has been named head coach and he’ll be assisted by Steve Spott, the Kitchener Rangers’ head coach and GM, and Andre Tourigny of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.
Canada has won the Ivan Hlinka Memorial three of the last four years.