CALGARY, AB – Hockey Canada, in partnership with the Canadian Hockey League, announced on Wednesday that Mike Johnston, head coach and general manager of the WHL’s Portland Winter Hawks, will be the head coach of Canada’s National Men’s Under-18 Team for the 2009 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, April 9-19 in Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead, Minnesota.
In addition, it was announced that Eric Lavigne of the QMJHL’s Val-d’Or Foreurs and Steve Spott of the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers will serve as assistant coaches.
Canada is the defending champion at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship, having won its second gold medal in 2008 with an 8-0 victory over Russia in the gold medal game in Kazan, Russia.
The 2009 IIHF World Under-18 Championship will mark the 12th appearance for Johnston behind a Canadian bench, either as the head coach or an assistant coach. The Dartmouth, NS native won gold medals as an assistant coach at the 19 IIHF World Championships and the 19 IIHF World Junior Championships, and silver medals as an assistant at the 19 IIHF World Championships. He also won a bronze at the 1995 IIHF World Championship.
Johnston also served as an assistant coach with Canada at the 1998 IIHF World Championship, 1996 World Cup of Hockey and 1998 Olympic Winter Games. He was the head coach of Canada’s National Men’s Team during the 1998-99 season, winning the Spengler Cup and finishing fourth at the world championship that year.
“Working with Hockey Canada has always been a terrific experience, and I am excited to work with a number of Canada’s up-and-comers at the world championship,” Johnston said. “Hopefully I can share what I know and we can bring another gold medal back to Canada.”
“We are very pleased with our coaching staff named today and our preparations leading up to the 2009 IIHF World Under-18 Championship,” said Brad Pascall, senior director of men’s national teams. “All three coaches bring a wealth of experience both internationally and within the Canadian Hockey League, and along with Al Murray we look forward to naming a well-rounded group of players in the coming weeks that will represent Canada well this April in Fargo.”
Lavigne will make his first appearance with one of Canada’s national teams. He recently finished his third season as head coach and director of hockey operations of the Foreurs. Previously, he spent time as head coach of the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts (2002-05), AHL’s Quebec Citadelles (2000-02) and at the CIS’ University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières (1996-99). Lavigne has been a part of Canada’s Program of Excellence before, serving as head coach for Team Quebec at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in 19.
Spott returns for his second stint behind the U18 bench this season; he was an assistant coach for the National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team when it won the 2008 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament in the Czech Republic in August. The Toronto native just completed his first season as head coach and general manager of the Rangers in 2008-09 after spending seven seasons as the team’s assistant coach and assistant general manager, winning a MasterCard Memorial Cup in 2003.
Canada’s coaching staff, along with Al Murray, Hockey Canada’s head scout of men’s national teams, will help select Canada’s roster for the 2009 IIHF World Under-18 Championship from players whose CHL teams either missed the playoffs or suffered a first-round loss. The Canadian team will gather in Minneapolis, MN and play a pair of pre-tournament games, April 5 vs. Finland in Blaine, MN and April 7 vs. Slovakia in Minneapolis. Canada opens the world championship on April 9 vs. Germany in Fargo.
TSN/RDS, the official broadcasters of Hockey Canada, will broadcast Canada’s final preliminary round game against Sweden on Tuesday, April 14, as well as a quarter-final on Wednesday, April 15 or Thursday, April 16, a semifinal on Friday, April 17 and the gold medal game on Sunday, April 19. The bronze medal game on April 19 will also be broadcast if Canada plays for bronze. Check your local listings for game times in your area.