Jan4

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Journal Entry: January 4th, 2002
With Guests Marc Habscheid and Mike Kelly

Marc Habscheid
There's a reason that it feels like I've been here before. Deja vu or whatever you want to call it. I remember what it was like around the team in '82, in those hours leading up to our final game. It's the same sort of atmosphere around this team, but there's a lot that's different. We were excited about the chance that we had but in 1982 this tournament hadn't developed the following it has today. We weren't going into it with the attention and the pressure on us that our players have to deal with today.

That said when it came down to our final game, we were facing the Czechs, not the Russians. We were in Minnesota, not in Europe. There were differences. The key is how your players accept and deal with the moment. You need some sort of relief from build-up and it's funny how particular players take a role in this. Our year it was real cold and we had been given ski-masks. We had our pregame meeting and skate and one of our players Todd Strueby put on his ski mask before our coach, Dave King, walked in. As soon as Dave saw him he said, "Strueby, take that off." Todd said: "How'd you know it was me?" Well, that was our running joke that day. It was something that we were talking about at the skate. It was something that kept coming up that day. Dave had things that he wanted to get across but this was nothing planned. It just happened in that moment and it broke the tension.

You see little things like that every day with our team. The coaches and the staff organize and plan team-building exercises and activities over the course of our time together, yet in a lot of ways players handle things on their own, whether they know it or not. These players after all are the leaders on their teams, even a young player like Rick Nash. What will it be tomorrow and who will do something for us on the ice or off the ice? Canadian Hockey leaves almost nothing to chance in preparing everyone for a game like this but there are some things that you don't control and shouldn't.

Mike Kelly
It is also a familiar feeling for me but in a different way than for Marc. I've had a college team in a position for a national championship and there's a buzz or an excitement and a nervousness in the days and hours leading up to the game. But with a college team of course you're dealing with older players and the degree of pressure on them is something else entirely than for our players here in Pardubice. I know my players going for a national college championship are also thinking about papers or exams that they have coming up. These players here are teenagers who are playing for a world championship and that's all they've been focusing on since they arrived in our camp almost a month ago. For most of them it's something that they've been thinking about since last summer when they were at our summer camp, something that they've been pointing to for years. The feeling around the team is the same but it's a difference of degrees.

I think that the experience that these players had last year going to the bronze-medal game is invaluable. It was far tougher to focus on that task--coming home with a medal even if it wasn't going to be gold--than it is to point to a final against the Russians. Players who have been through that last year or played for championships at other levels, whether at the under-18s or wherever else, have something to draw on.

In some ways it's easier for the coaching staff. Stan, Mark and I have been working away. We have things to organize, jobs to do. We don't have time to dwell on this. Still I've thought about my own situation. My junior team in North Bay was sold while I've been over here. The league still has to approve the deal but I haven't even met the people who have bought the team and the plans as they stand are to move the team to Michigan. What my own future is at this point I don't know. Like so many players this might be my last go with the CHA junior program. I've been away from my wife and kids the last two Christmases and it's tough enough to be away from them so much just with the work that I do wih North Bay. Would I like to go on to coach again in this program, at the under-18s or again with the junior team? I've been very fortunate to be around these players the last couple of years. I became involved in the Program of Excellence to develop as a coach. I really didn't look at it as a way to advance my career or make contacts or make a name for myself. If I'm not back again it has still been a great opportunity and a learning experience. I believe it has made me a better coach. A gold would be great but that wouldn't mean that the learning is at an end. It would just be a great way to close out this one chapter.

 

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