PENTICTON, B.C. – It didn’t matter that Canada West earned the silver medal at last year’s World Junior A Challenge, or that it steamrolled Canada East 9-1 in the semifinals, handing the easterners their worst loss ever at the tournament.
For Larry Wintoneak, all that mattered was that he left Summerside, P.E.I. without a gold medal around his neck.
An assistant coach in 2009, Wintoneak has made the step up to head coach for the 2010 event, looking to lead Canada West to its first gold medal since the second of back-to-back titles in 2007. He says he didn’t need to return to the tournament to remember last year’s 2-1 loss to the United States.
“It bothers you all the time, knowing how close you were to gold,” says Wintoneak, head coach of the SJHL’s Kindersley Klippers. “Everybody wants a second chance, and I’m lucky enough to have one.”
But Wintoneak is not the only Canadian coach with a second chance – Canada East head coach Todd Gill returns for his second go-round as bench boss, with memories of last year’s fourth-place finish fresh in his mind.
Canada East’s performance in Summerside was the worst ever by a Canadian entry at the tournament; it marked the first time in the four-year history of the event that a Canadian team failed to medal.
Gill says he is bound and determined not to let that happen again.
“We’re going to do things different this year,” says the head coach and general manager of the CHL’s Brockville Braves. “Hockey wise, how we do things on the ice won’t change much. But some changes need to be made regarding how we handle off-ice activities, and we’ll make those this year.”
A 19-year NHL veteran who played 1,007 games with seven teams, Gill got to wear the red and white of Team Canada just once, chipping in three assists in six games as Canada finished eighth at the 1992 IIHF World Championship.
Gill calls that experience one of the best of his career, and hopes his players realize their opportunity in Penticton may be once in a lifetime.
“I only had the one chance to represent my country, and it was an absolute honour,” he says. “Last year I think we had a few kids who thought it was more of a birthright, but we’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen again; we think we’ve got a terrific group.”
For both Gill and Wintoneak, only one result is acceptable – to be the last team standing on November 14.
“You don’t get many chances to win a gold medal,” Wintoneak says. “Last year we got a taste of what it is like to be right there, to have that chance, and we want to make sure we get back, and this time finish the job.”