With the World Junior Championship about a month and a half away, Team Canada announced their coaching staff today. There will be a familiar face behind the bench, as Everett Silvertips’ coach-GM Dennis Williams takes on the head coaching duties after serving as an assistant during last year’s event.
Joining Williams on the bench as assistants will be Sherbrooke Phoenix coach Stephane Julien – who was the head coach at this past summer's Hlinka-Gretzky Cup for Canada – as well as Lethbridge Hurricanes coach Brent Kisio and Sarnia Sting coach Alan Letang. Kelly Guard, most recently the goaltending coach of the Prince Albert Raiders, will serve as the team’s goaltending consultant.
Williams has served as a head coach for Canada once before, in 2018-19 at the U-17s where he was the head coach of Canada Black for the event. He’s been an assistant coach for the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup team (2019) and the aforementioned world juniors last year. He won silver at the Hlinka and gold at last year’s world juniors.
His Silvertips squad has been a strong team in each of his six seasons at the helm, winning at least 45 games every year except for the COVID-shortened season in which his team won 19 of 23. Williams has led Everett to four U.S. Division titles, three Western Conference regular season titles and a Western Conference playoff championship. He has been named WHL Western Conference Coach of the Year twice (2018 and 2020).
Julien has served as an assistant coach at the World Under-18 Championship with Canada (2017) and head coach for Canada Black at the U-17 Capital City Challenge last year. He has been Sherbrooke’s head coach since taking over midway through the 2015-16 season and was an assistant for the three seasons previous to that. He was named the QMJHL coach of the year in 2020, leading his team to 51 wins before COVID-19 shut down the season and cancelled the playoffs.
Kisio has a wealth of Team Canada experience in his own right, highlighted by winning gold as head coach at the 2017 Hlinka tournament. He has also served as a head coach for Canada White at the 2016 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and an assistant coach for Canada Pacific in 2014 at the U-17s. This will be his second stint as an assistant for the U-20 program, having served the same role at the 2019 world juniors.
Letang is in his second season as Sarnia’s head coach. Letang was also an assistant with the U-20 team a couple of seasons ago, winning gold with the 2020 squad. He was a member of Julien’s staff, winning gold at the Hlinka this past summer as well. He has done his fair share of winning as a coach on the international stage.
The Canadian U-20 squad’s supporting staff is filled out by athletic therapists Kevin Elliott and Andy Brown (Owen Sound, OHL), team physician Dr. R.J. Mackenzie (Cape Breton, QMJHL), equipment managers Gord Cochran (Regina, WHL) and Chris Cook (Hamilton, OHL), Strength and conditioning coach Sean Young (Ottawa, OHL), mental performance consultant Luke Madill, manager of hockey operations Benoit Roy, senior co-ordinator of hockey operations Natalie Gerstmar, co-ordinator of hockey operations Kurt Keats, security liaison Bob Martin (London, OHL) and media relations manager Spencer Sharkey.
With the typical wealth of talent to work with, this iteration of Canada’s World Junior Championship coaching staff will once again head into the tournament with sky-high expectations. They’ve all won at various levels internationally and had success with their club squads, so they know what it takes to get to that level.
Canada’s selection camp with takes place at the Avenir Centre in Moncton for four days between Dec. 9 to 12 with the final roster expected to be announced ahead of the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship. The selection camp roster is expected to be announced in the next few weeks.
The 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship is set to kick off on Boxing Day (Dec. 26) as is tradition. The event takes place in Halifax, N.S. and Moncton, N.B., showcasing Canada’s maritime provinces. Canada takes on Czechia to kick off their tournament in the final game of the day.