Call it a World Juniors hat trick for Tim Hunter, who is back behind the
bench with Canada’s National Junior Team for the third year in a row.
After winning silver (2017) and gold (2018) in his first two appearances as
an assistant, the former NHLer takes the reins as head coach for the 2019
tournament in Vancouver and Victoria, B.C.
Just over a week away from the start of the Sport Chek World Junior
Showcase in Kamloops, B.C., HockeyCanada.ca sat down with the Moose Jaw
Warriors head coach to get his thoughts on his promotion, and what to
expect on the West Coast.
Q: After two years as an assistant, what changes now that you’re the
TH: I have to do what was done before me, and that’s let
my assistants do their job. Give them direction, give them a role, and let
them do their job. On the other side with myself, is trust my instinct and
my plan, stay patient with it and stay patient with the players. It starts
in the summer in Kamloops, implementing our mindset and the vision we want.
My thing for our team this year is to let them write their own story; don’t
worry about what’s gone on before them. Yes, relish in the history and the
pride in the Canadian jersey and the World Juniors tradition, but write
their own story by doing something special as a group.
Q: You never had the opportunity to represent your country as a player,
so what does it mean to you to get to do it now as a coach?
TH: At any level, in any capacity, it just an honour and a
thrill to represent your country. I knew my time wouldn’t come as a player,
and once I got into coaching I was hoping that at some point I’d get an
opportunity. I was really fortunate to win a bronze in Switzerland at the
U18 world championship [in 2015] and that was my first taste at being
involved as a part of Hockey Canada, which is the ultimate team to play for
or to coach. I’ve won a Stanley Cup, but it’s really thrilling to put on
that Canadian jersey, and to be behind the bench with a bunch of players
wearing it. To be the head coach of the U20 program is such an honour, and
such a thrill.
Q: The World Juniors are back in Canada this year; what’s different
when the tournament is at home?
TH: When it’s on home soil, it’s so special. All the Canadian games are
sold out, the crowds are coming into the arena before the games and they’ve
all got their jerseys and the flags, it’s so cool. It gives our players
such a big boost when they look out and see so much support and so much
love from the country following them and cheering them on. I think it’s a
huge advantage for us, and for the players; they all want to be in that big
spotlight under the bright lights and it’s such a great opportunity for
them to display the skill and make Canadians proud.
Q: Is dealing with the pressure of the home crowds and the expectations
going to be a focus?
TH: Players at that level don’t really feel the pressure.
They want that situation, they want to be in those big games. They want to
play in the quarter-finals and they want to win, and they want to get in
the semis and want to get a chance to play for gold, and that’s all we ask
for. Being in the spotlight and having so much support and so many people
cheering for you, it’s not really pressure for them. It’s what they crave,
it’s what they want. They want attention, they want that opportunity to win
the big game. The players, and even me as a coach, don’t look at it as
pressure, it’s an opportunity.
Q: With summer camp in Kamloops, what are the benefits playing
international games right away?
TH: To get to it early is great, because the players will
see our messaging for the first time, and we’ll see how they react to it
and see how it works. We can use that information on how we’re going to
prepare a little bit better or add or delete some things come the
tournament in December. It’s a nice segue into our systems and our mindset
with our players, both introducing ourselves and that mindset to the
players, and the players to us. I think it’s a great preliminary