OTTAWA - Canadian Hockey and the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) announced today the coaching staffs to lead Canada's national junior team to the 1997 World Junior Championship in Switzerland, and the national under-18 squad to the Air Canada Pacific Cup in Nelson and Castlegar, B.C. this August.
Canadian Hockey and the CHL, following a selection process that started out with over 40 applications, named Mike Babcock of the Western Hockey League's Spokane Chiefs as head coach of the national junior squad and Mike Pelino of Ontario's Brock University to lead the national under-18 team.
Babcock, who returns to the national program after serving as an assistant with the 1995 under-18 team, will be joined by Réal Paiement of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Chicoutimi Sagueneens and one of last year's junior team assistant coaches, Terry Bangen of Montreal's McGill University.
Pelino steps up to the head coaching position with the under-18s after working as an assistant in 1995. He will be teamed-up with Peter Deboer of the Ontario Hockey League's Detroit Whalers, and Bob Loucks of the WHL's Tri-City Americans.
"Canadian Hockey is extremely pleased with the quality of coaches showing continued interest in our national team programs," said Bob Nicholson, Canadian Hockey senior vice-president, hockey operations. "Every spring the candidates vying for these coaching positions are extremely prepared and bring with them more and more domestic and international experience and success, making the selection that much more difficult.
"Again this year, we will have excellent coaching leadership taking our national junior and under-18 teams into international competition," adds Nicholson.
Babcock will have the formidable task of guiding the national junior team on the heels of a record four-consecutive gold medal performances (1993 in Sweden, 1994 in the Czech Republic, 1995 in Red Deer and 1996 in Boston). In round-robin play, Canada will face the Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland and the United States, while Finland, Poland, Slovakia, Sweden and Russia will meet in the other group.
"This is a tremendous opportunity," said Babcock. "The national junior team is a quality program and a lot of people who have been involved along the way have benefited as coaches and people."
The 33 year-old coach also recognizes the challenges of guiding a Canadian national team. "Anytime you get to represent your country there's a lot of pride at stake, and we're looking at maintaining that tradition and forging some of our own."
The national junior team will hold its evaluation camp for over 40 players from August 2-8 at the Father David Bauer Arena in Calgary. Babcock will reassemble his team for a selection camp in Kitchener, Ontario from December 13-18. The final roster of 22 players will take part in a pre-competition camp from December 19-25, and then finally move to Geneva, Switzerland for the 1997 World Junior Championship from December 26 to January 4.
Mike Babcock has coached three seasons in the WHL. He joined the Moose Jaw Warriors in 1992-93 and guided the Spokane Chiefs during the 1994--96 seasons. In other hockey experience, he was head coach for the CIAU champions University of Lethbridge Longhorns in 1993-94, and with Red Deer College from 19.
Mike Pelino, head coach at Brock University, is one of ten Canadian Hockey level four coaches. The 36-year old's Canadian Hockey program of excellence experience includes guiding Team Ontario to the 1994 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Amos, Quebec; assisting Tom Renney at the 1994 Spengler Cup in Switzerland; and, serving as an assistant to Mike Keenan's coaching staff during the 1991 Canada Cup.
"I'm honoured to have the opportunity to represent Canada once again," said Pelino, who was an assistant to Gary Agnew at the 1995 Air Canada Pacific Cup, "and I'm excited at the prospect of the competition being held in Canada."
Pelino, who will be reviewing the under-18 team candidates today, is impressed with the potential for success. "We have an outstanding group of individuals and it will be a great challenge for Peter (Deboer), Bob (Loucks) and me to put together a gold medal winning team."
The national under-18 team will come together in Calgary for a pre-competition camp from August 7-11 before heading to Nelson, B.C. for their opening game against the United States on August 13. Japan and Finland are also competing in the round-robin Air Canada Pacific Cup with the final scheduled for August 18.
The players invited to the national team junior evaluation camp, being held in August, will be announced later this week, as will the 20 players named to represent Canada at the Air Canada Pacific Cup in British Columbia.