The spotlight will be immense, the weight of expectations oh so heavy.
But Benoit Groulx says he is more than ready to handle it all as Canada’s head coach at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ottawa – even if the tournament is being played right in his own backyard, so to speak.
“The expectation of this team is no different than in previous years,” said Groulx, also the head coach of the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. “When you coach the (Canadian junior) team, everybody expects you to win gold. Everybody expects you to be successful.”
Preparation is the key, Groulx said, and it’s an approach that has allowed him to guide the Olympiques to three QMJHL championships, including an appearance at the Memorial Cup in Kitchener, ON, earlier this year. And proper preparation is the biggest task facing Groulx and his two assistants – Dave Cameron of the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors and Willie Desjardins of the Medicine Hat Tigers – in the weeks and months leading up to the tournament.
Groulx also knows full well Canada has a shot at winning a record-tying fifth straight gold medal at the 2009 World Juniors, which run December 26th to January 5th at Scotiabank Place and the Ottawa Civic Centre.
“It’s all about preparation and it’s something we’re going to discuss (among) the staff together,” said Groulx. “We know what’s (at stake) going in. It’s an opportunity for us to tie the record with a fifth gold medal. The pressure is always there but I believe with a good preparation, you (ready) yourself to face this pressure and this is what we’re going to do. I really feel we’re going to be prepared to face that pressure.”
When Hockey Canada began the task of assembling its coaching staff for this tournament, Groulx and Peter DeBoer of the Kitchener Rangers were considered the frontrunners for the top job. But after DeBoer accepted the head coaching job with the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers, Groulx became the clear choice in Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson’s mind.
“We’re very happy to have Benoit,” said Nicholson. “Just look at his record and look at what he has done for us. We’re very, very comfortable with where we are today.”
All three of the coaching staff members have a wealth of international experience.
Cameron directed Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team to a gold medal at the 2004 Junior World Cup – Groulx was an assistant coach with that squad – and was an assistant with the same team a year earlier. Desjardins, meanwhile, previously acted as an assistant coach for Canada at the 1999 IIHF World Championship.