Team Canada began preparations Tuesday for the 2.0 edition of the 2022 junior men’s hockey world championship in Edmonton.
The host country kicks off the championship from August 9-20 on August 10 against Latvia at Rogers Place.
The 10-nation tournament will be excluded from Russia’s participation by the International Ice Hockey Federation due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The initial 2022 championship in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta., was called off Dec. 29 after just four days due to rising COVID-19 cases among players and officials, forcing games to be lost.
Hockey Canada hosts this junior world cup under the shadow of scrutiny from the federal government and a wave of public criticism for its handling of alleged sexual assaults by members of previous junior men’s teams in 2018 and 2003.
Sheldon Kennedy, a former NHL player and victims’ rights advocate, is among those calling for the resignation of Hockey Canada president Scott Smith and the board of directors.
Improved character selection for all high-performing players was among a list of remedies Hockey Canada announced in an action plan last month.
“We sure have a heavy weight on our shoulders,” said forward Mason McTavish, who was named Canada’s captain Tuesday as camp opened in Calgary.
“We have an opportunity to obviously not clear the name, but maybe help improve and bring back…it’s Canada and the junior world is an amazing event especially for Canadians. We have a great opportunity to… help improve and take another step to get back to where we were.”
The 25 players named to the junior roster on Sunday took part in a code of conduct seminar that evening given by Hockey Canada director of sports safety Natasha Johnston. Another session on sexual violence was scheduled for Tuesday.
“Obviously it’s a very serious thing,” forward Kent Johnson said. “You’re playing for the nation and all the kids at home are watching. I think it’s still an honor to represent your country.”
The IIHF Men’s Under-20 event is considered a showcase for the best male junior hockey talent on the planet.
The IIHF has allowed players born in 2002 who have turned 20 to remain eligible to participate in the summer makeover.
Cameron returns as Canada’s head coach in a different setting with no selection camp and a major championship to be played in the middle of summer after a short camp.
“A little weird to be honest with you,” Cameron said at Tsuut’ina Nation’s 7 Chiefs Sportsplex. “Two good things about this for me is that I don’t have to cut anybody. That’s the hardest part of this job when you have to send the kids home. And the second part is that I know most of the players.”
The goalkeeping trio of Dylan Garand, Sebastian Cossa and Brett Brochu are back, but the roster has undergone nine player changes since the December lineup.
Previous captain Kaiden Guhle and top defenseman Owen Power did not return. Neither did forward Shane Wright, the No. 4 pick in last month’s NHL draft, or Winnipeg Jets forward Cole Perfetti.
Regina Pats forward Connor Bedard, the projected No. 1 NHL draft pick in 2023, and men’s Olympic team forwards McTavish and Johnson head Canada’s forwards in Edmonton.
“We only have eight days to prepare, which is a little less than usual,” Bedard said. “I think everyone comes in with the mentality of trying to win a gold medal. We’re doing everything we can in practice and in the gym these first couple of days to get started on that goal.”
Jack Thompson, who sat out December’s draft camp due to the COVID-19 quarantine, and Daemon Hunt were added to the defensive lineup for August.
Tyson Foerster, Nathan Gaucher, Riley Kidney, Zack Ostapchuk, Brennan Othman, William Dufour and Joshua Roy replace Wright, Perfetti, Xavier Bourgeault, Mavrik Bourque, Jake Neighbours, Justin Sourdif and Dylan Guenther.
Cameron declined to comment on the players who opted out.
“I’m just concentrating on the guys that I have here,” he said.
Garand is the only returning player from the Canadian team that won world junior silver in Edmonton in 2021.
“There’s a little bit more scrutiny on this year’s tournament being kind of the first juniors in the world since the accusations and stuff,” Garand said.
“For us and our team, we’re just here to focus on hockey and ultimately winning a gold medal is our goal.”