Returning to the Team Canada fold has been a sweet ride thus far for Jason
More than 23 years after he became the first – and still only – player to win
three gold medals at the World Juniors, the 43-year-old has helped build a
Canadian team that is two wins away from gold at the 2019 IIHF World
The Buffalo Sabres general manager says it’s an honour to reunite with
Hockey Canada as part of the management group for Canada’s National Men’s
Team in Slovakia.
“It is an extremely special experience for me. One of the great byproducts
that come from working for Hockey Canada is that you know you are always
working with quality people. Working alongside Ron Hextall and Ron Francis
has been a great learning experience for myself and has added another layer
to how exciting it is to be a part of Team Canada.”
Botterill, Hextall, Francis and the Alain Vigneault-led coaching staff were
keen to craft a roster featuring players with mobility and creativity, and
who provide the intangibles that often make the difference between victory
and defeat in big games.
Putting a premium on identifying players who impact the game in ways that
don’t get reflected by the scoresheet is natural for Botterill as that was
a role that he fulfilled as a player in his World Juniors experiences in
1994, 1995 and 1996.
“He had no problem being the ‘F1’ doing the gritty, dirty work and being
okay without getting the credit,” says Marty Murray, who played with
Botterill at the 1994 and 1995 tournaments. “That’s just who he was, and
that made him a very important piece of the puzzle of the three World
Juniors gold medals he earned.”
Botterill says getting an opportunity to make essential contributions to
Team Canada were highly beneficial for his career, both short-term and
“It helped me as a player in my career to play in matches of that
magnitude, and to receive the confidence that I can step up and perform
when the pressure is on.”
Botterill handled different types of pressure during his World Juniors
career. The 1994 and 1995 tournaments operated in a seven-game round-robin
format, so it was crucial to be in top form for every single match. The
1996 tournament switched over to a medal-round format, which provided
Botterill an opportunity to produce in one-game elimination tilts.
The 1995 championship in Red Deer, Alta., which marked the first occasion a
Canadian team ever finished perfect (7-0), was his favourite experience out
of the three. The Winnipeg product has fond memories of he and his
teammates tapping into the spirit of Western Canada by donning cowboy hats
and trench coats, and, of course, playing in “an electric atmosphere” in
Red Deer, Edmonton and Calgary.
Murray, who also won a Calder Cup in 2001 with Botterill as members of the
American Hockey League’s Saint John Flames, remembers getting to know his
friend over those two World Juniors. The Top Forward recipient at the 1995
tournament says it was natural for Botterill to become a general manager.
“He always was an intelligent person who made great points whether he was
talking about hockey or not. It certainly doesn’t surprise me that he’s
leading the world championship team right now.”
However, according to Murray, Botterill’s cleverness was not on display
during crib matches on the bus.
“You think with all his smarts that he would be able to figure out the game
of crib, but that was one thing he wasn’t very good at,” says Murray with a
The crib games, crowds and the championship celebrations are all memories
that Botterill and his teammates reminisce about when they have run into
each other over the past two decades. He is very proud of contributing to
Canada’s rich legacy, just like his younger sister Jennifer did with
Canada’s National Women’s Team as a three-time Olympic gold medallist and
five-time world champion.
Botterill cherishes how much the Team Canada experience today aligns with
the Team Canada experience of the 1990s.
“The experience of Hockey Canada providing the resources to ensure the team
can come together and have the best chance of success has not changed.
“Just like it was back then, the Team Canada experience is about players
being passionate about representing their country and players being
passionate about winning a gold medal for Canada.”