If Dan Bertram’s track record provides any indication, Team Canada has an excellent shot at reaching the finals of the 2006 IIHF World Junior Championship. The classy 18-year-old forward from Calgary has recently won two gold medals (with Team Alberta at the 2003 Canada Winter Games and Canada’s 2004 U18 team at the Junior World Cup in the Czech Republic) and two silver medals (with Team Pacific at the 2004 World U17 Hockey Challenge in Newfoundland and Canada’s entry in the 2005 IIHF U18 World Championship in the Czech Republic).
Bertram, a 2005 second-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, currently plays NCAA hockey with the Boston College Eagles, where he ranked second in team scoring with 12 points in 12 games as of December 5. So far, his lone contribution to the scoresheet at the 2006 World Juniors has been a roughing minor in the third period versus Finland, but with his offensive talent, that’s likely to change.
HockeyCanada.ca’s Lucas Aykroyd spent some time with Bertram after Canada’s December 27 morning practice, posing questions that were emailed by fans around the world for the 5-11, 175-pound dynamo.
Dan, every year Canada is the team to look out for at the World Juniors, and with the tournament taking place in Canada, how much do you think this factors into other teams’ strategy when they play Team Canada?
Peter Wilson - North Delta, BC, Canada
Any time the tournament’s in Canada, you’re going to get the fan support. You know Canada’s going to come out every game with full momentum. So the other teams will probably try to play a shut-down mode in the beginning, just to get the excitement out of the fans. Because you know this place is going to be rocking in the first five minutes of every game. If they can get the fans out of it with a quick goal or big hit, that’s probably good for them.
How are the college players on Team Canada getting along with the major junior players?
David W. - Ottawa, ON, Canada
When you get here, you’re all fighting for the same thing, and you all want to get that gold medal. We all have the same goal. I know most of the major junior guys from a long time back. I’ve grown up with them or played against them. So we’re all buddies, and a lot of my best friends on the team are major junior guys.
Dan, what made you choose to go to college instead of playing for the Vancouver Giants (the CHL team that drafted you)? Good luck in bringing back the gold!
Daniel Sitar, - Vancouver, BC, Canada
Just a change. You know, I enjoy school, and for me, getting an education while playing hockey was important. With the college route, I was able to do that for sure.
What are your impressions of playing in the competitive Hockey East? You have some great rivalries there.
Simon Jenny - New York, NY, USA
It’s very, very competitive. A lot of young Canadians don’t know about it, but you’ve got Maine, New Hampshire, Boston University. They’re all very, very good hockey teams and they’ve produced a lot of good hockey players. It’s growing and getting better, and hopefully this year a couple of guys can go to the NCAA and maybe win the national championship from that league.
Hi Dan! My friend and I are from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, where Craig Hartsburg currently coaches the Greyhounds. We made a little tribute to the previous World Junior teams and gave it to him at a Christmas party. We worked really hard on it because we are such huge fans, and really want this year's team to see it! So we were wondering, did you get to see it? GO CANADA!!
Melissa Caputo and Alicia DeZordo - Sault Ste. Marie, ON, Canada
We’ve haven’t gotten to see it yet. Hopefully he’ll bring it out and show the guys. Maybe he’s saving it for the next team dinner or something down the road.
At what point did you realize that hockey would play such a big role in your life? And what do you do in your spare time?
Natalie Hillary - Vancouver, BC, Canada
I’d say when you’re 13 or 14 years, the bantam draft comes up and there are all kinds of decisions you have to make. It really makes you realize that it’s going to be a big factor in your life as you keep playing. Then at 15 or 16, you start to represent your country, and that’s when you realize this is a big deal. It really opens up your eyes.
As far as spare time goes, at school you don’t really get a ton of spare time. So when you do, it’s a lot of laying around. We play a lot of video games. I live in a dorm with eight of my roommates and they’re all on the hockey team, so there’s always lots going on. We end up with a lot of good games of Playstation hockey.
My question is, knowing that you’re a huge role model for so many people, not only for people that have a passion for hockey but for every person that sees that Canadian flag on your jersey and wants to be a part of that in some way, how do you feel about that?
Lindsay Bishop - Quesnel, BC, Canada
I remember growing up watching guys, and how well they conducted themselves and how professional they were. I guess we’ve taken that upon ourselves too. The coach demands that out of us. We’ve got a good bunch of kids on this team that want to represent their country as best they can. You’ve got to watch what you do every day, because you’re always in the spotlight. But we’re just being ourselves and enjoying the moment right now.
I just wanted to ask you if you had any tips to stay in shape during the season.
Alexandre Kohli - Fribourg, Switzerland
We’re lucky in college, because we only play two games a week. So we get a little more time to ride the bikes and get a little more cardio. I think the main thing is the routine of riding the bike. Guys ride the bikes for 20 minutes after practice, maybe sometimes 20 minutes before practice. You want to get that extra cardio in and keep your legs fresh.
Dan, what was your first thought when you were drafted by Chicago? And is there someone in particular whom are you looking forward to play with?
Miroslav Jahoda - Prague, Czech Republic
Any time you get drafted into the NHL, it’s a big experience, a big moment in your life. You’re with your family and stuff like that, so it was pretty cool. Going to camp this year, it was neat to meet some of the guys. Obviously it was a rookie camp, so I didn’t get to meet any of the big, big guys. But I really like [Tuomo] Ruutu. He’s a very good hockey player. It’s too bad he’s hurt this year, but it would be neat to skate with him and see his work ethic and see what he’s like.
Hi Dan, what is your favorite music? Who is your favourite hockey player? Did you like Pilsen when you were in the Czech Republic at the U18 World Championship? And how do you get along with your Boston College teammate, Nate Gerbe, who is representing the USA at this tournament?
Petra and Wendy - Pilsen, Czech Republic
For music, I’m kind of all over the place. But we were listening to Journey on the way here, that song about the “midnight train” [“Don’t Stop Believin’” from 1981’s Escape, which peaked at #9 that year]. It’s a good song. Me and Andrew Cogliano like that, so that’s what we’re listening to now.
Being a Canadian kid, I really like Joe Sakic. I guess tons of guys would say that, but growing up, you watch people and how they conduct themselves, and he’s just such a good role model for young kids.
Pilsen was unbelievable. It was a chance to get over and see the rest of the world. We’re so secluded here in North America. Any time you get to see the heritage and the culture, it’s a real eye-opener. I loved it.
Nate is a really good guy away from the rink, but when we get on the ice, you know it’s going to be a battle. We both play hard-edged roles. We’ll battle hard all night, but at the end of the night, regardless of the outcome, we’ll be buddies off the ice.
How much time in your off days and after practice do you spend with teammates talking about the game you just played or the one coming up?
Christina Pivirotto - Woburn, MA, USA
When you go to school, you’re with the guys so much, because you’re playing with them, you’re going to school with them, and you’re living with them! We probably break down every game thoroughly afterwards. It’s good. We have video and we go over it and talk about it. It’s a nice routine. Your whole life is hockey, so it’s good for everyone to talk about it.