CALGARY - Canadian Hockey, Air Canada and the Ernie Gare Athletic Scholarship Society announced today that the Air Canada Pacific Cup was coming to Nelson, B.C. and the Kootenays from August 12 -. The final schedule will be released at a later date.
The Air Canada Pacific Cup is an four-country international tournament featuring national under-18 teams from Canada, Japan, Russia and the United States, and the top prospects for the future stars of Canada's national team program and the National Hockey League.
The Ernie Gare Athletic Scholarship Society is acting as host to the 1996 Air Canada Pacific Cup, with the tournament assisting to generate funds for the Society and be a part of the Annual Fundraising Weekend.
Air Canada is the title sponsor of the Pacific Cup for a second consecutive year, with Canadian Hockey's other premier sponsors - Imperial Oil and Royal Bank - acting as co-presenters.
"We are particulary proud to host the 1996 Air Canada Cup in the west," comments Al Thompson, Air Canada's Vice-President of Corporate Affairs for Western Canada. "It is fitting to host such an international event in British Columbia as we are quickly becoming the Asian gateway to Canada."
"This tournament is a preview of upcoming NHL drafts and line-ups for Canada's national squads," said Bob Nicholson, senior vice-president of hockey operations for Canadian Hockey. "The past three NHL Entry Drafts are quite revealing, with 13 Canadian national under-18 team players being picked in the first round and another 17 chosen in the second round."
Past first round selections include the 1995 second over-all choice, Wade Redden, goalkeeper Jamie Storr, and skaters Jeff Friesen, Jeff O'Neill, Brendan Witt, Todd Harvey and Chris Gratton. Each player competed for Canada at the Pacific Cup and led Canada to the 1995 World Junior Championship gold medal. In fact, Storr, Friesen and Harvey also took home a world junior gold medal in 1994.
"Our 1996 junior team, that gave us our fourth consecutive gold medal, had quite an alumni cast from the Air Canada Pacific Cup," added Nicholson.
Half of Marcel Comeau's 1996 gold-medal winning squad played on the national under-18 team. Those players were Chad Allan, Curtis Brown, Jarome Iginla, Daymond Langkow, Brad Larsen, Alyn McCauley, Chris Phillips, Jason Podollan, Wade Redden, Jose Theodore, and Rhett Warrener.
NHL scouts also see great value in the Air Canada Pacific Cup. "If you look at last year's Canadian under-18 team, five guys are projected to go in the first round this June," noted Nicholson of top prospect Chris Phillips, and other NHL hopefuls Darren Van Oene, Trevor Waseluk, Josh Holden and Geoff Peters, "and Daniel Cleary is an early top five favourite for the 1997 draft."
Russia and the United States will also add to the 1996 first round draft crop in American Toby Petersen, and Russians Andrei Petrunin and Andrei Zuyuzin. Russian Sergei Samsonov, the best player at the 1995 Air Canada Pacific Cup and a member of Russia's bronze medal 1996 World Junior Championship team, is by far the favourite to go first overall in the talent-laden 1997 draft.
Nicholson added that not only players come through the system. "Our 1996 junior team coaching staff of Marcel Comeau, Terry Bangen and Blair MacKasey got some invaluable international experience when they collected gold in 1994 at the under-18 tournament when it was held in Mexico."
From the under-18 coaching fraternity, four coaches have won gold medals at world championships and one silver at the Olympics. Canada's full-time national team coach, Tom Renney, guided the 1992 under-18 squad to a gold medal win at the Phoenix Cup, and has since won an Olympic silver medal (1994), and World Senior Championship gold (1994) and bronze (1995) medals.
The national under-18 team program is the second step in Canadian Hockey's learning process of international hockey. Canadian players are initiated to top international hockey at the under-17 age level with the World Under-17 Championship.
Once they have moved through the under-18 program, the national junior team is the next challenge that faces the players internationally. Over half of our past junior team players have donned the national under-18 jersey.
Canada's roster for the 1996 Air Canada Pacific Cup will be put together by Canadian Hockey director of scouting Ray Payne, and the coaching staff, which is expected to be selected at the beginning of June.
Only Canada and Russia, or the Soviet Union, has won the competition. The Soviets took the first title in 1991, with Russia claiming gold in 19. The Canadians were winners in 19.
The Air Canada Pacific Cup has been held only once outside Japan, and that was in 1994 when Mexico City welcomed international hockey.