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Noah Pak of the Collingwood Blues at the 2023 Centennial Cup.

Pak sets himself up for success

Capping off his final junior hockey season with the Collingwood Blues at the Centennial Cup, Noah Pak has a bright future – on and off the ice

Jonathan Yue
|
May 17, 2023

For Collingwood Blues goaltender Noah Pak, playing in the blue paint wasn’t always his first choice. But that changed after he reluctantly strapped on the pads for the first time.

“No one wanted to play goalie in the first game of the year, so my dad volunteered me to do it,” Pak recalls. “I was upset about it, crying as I put on the pads, but I finished the game, I really enjoyed it and I was really glad my dad put me in there.”

It’s a decision that has been fruitful for Pak; the 19-year-old has developed into one of Canada’s top junior A netminders this season. Leading the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL) with 16 wins, along with a sparkling 1.37 goals-against average and .947 save percentage, Pak backstopped the defensively sound Blues to their first-ever OJHL championship banner to qualify for the Centennial Cup.

“It’s been a dream for a lot of our players and our goal at the beginning of the year, to earn an opportunity to compete for a national championship,” Pak says about the National Junior A Championship. “I think we’re prepared and ready for it with the team around us, but also trying to soak it all in and really enjoy the experience at the national stage.”

The Oakville, Ont., native was named OJHL playoff MVP for his stellar play, but as much as he is getting the spotlight for his individual performance, he credits the team around him for pushing him to be the best version of himself, on and off the ice.

“The team and the culture in Collingwood have helped me develop as a player on the ice and as a person off the ice,” Pak says. “With our mindset, there was never a doubt in winning the championship, and with all those individual stats, they’re great, but at the end of the day, we’re all here to win as a team.”

Looking forward to the future

Off the ice, Pak is also preparing himself for what comes next. Committed to Yale University beginning in the fall, Pak understands the importance of keeping his career opportunities open, whether that is on the ice or beyond.

After showcasing his abilities at the Cottage Cup in Collingwood early in the pandemic-shortened 2021-22 season, Pak didn’t hesitate to commit to the Bulldogs when the opportunity arose.

“It was a no-brainer for me, with the program they run in terms of hockey but also on the education side of things, it’s second to none,” Pak says. “I’m looking out for my future once I’m finally done with hockey. It was definitely a surreal time for me and especially for my parents with everything that they’ve done for me, supporting me over the years.”

Although he doesn’t need to declare a major in his first year at Yale, Pak is interested in business and economics, but wants to keep his options open, whether that’s in hockey or school. Regardless of what path he chooses, Pak is thankful for all the support he’s received from his parents over the years.

“I wouldn’t be where I am without my parents,” he says. “They’ve put in countless hours driving and preparing me for games, the amount of money they’ve put into my gear and training, so whenever I kind of look back at my achievements, I’m always grateful.”

Pak’s parents, Dennis and Nancy, have always known their son is capable of looking after himself. Whether it was his commitment to preparation before games, his attitude to overcome challenges or his decision to go the NCAA route, they understood what hockey meant to him and the family’s bond strengthened because of it.

“His determination always stood out to us,” Dennis says. “He’s put in the work into his training, he was determined to develop close to home in Collingwood, and we’ve adapted our lifestyle around his hockey schedule. As long as he’s happy, we’ll support his decisions and be there for him.”

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As Pak takes the next step into his hockey career, at the Centennial Cup this weekend and into a busy summer, he is understanding the importance of becoming a leader in hockey as well. Growing up in Oakville, he has seen the diversity of hockey grow and hopes that the trend continues.

“Hockey is a sport for everyone,” Pak says, who played AAA with the Oakville Rangers. “I’ve been lucky enough that my parents supported the decisions I made for myself and I think anyone can try to strap on the pads or lace on skates so if I can inspire even just one kid to pursue hockey as a career or even just as a hobby, that’s great because this is the best sport there is.”

While Pak is focused on bringing a national title back to Collingwood, he is also making sure he and his teammates are soaking in the experience together before they move onto the next stage of their lives.

“I look forward to the next chapter of my career and my life, and I want to be able to succeed at the next level as well,” Pak says. “I want to do great things at school and with the Bulldogs program, but I’m living in the moment and we’ll see where hockey takes me.”

Collingwood Blues win 2024 Centennial Cup

Blues become the first OJHL champion in 17 years to win Canada’s National Junior A Championship

NR.034.24
|
May 21, 2024

OAKVILLE, Ontario – The Collingwood Blues captured the 2024 Centennial Cup, presented by Tim Hortons, with a 1-0 shutout of the Melfort Mustangs on Sunday. 

It was a night of redemption for the Blues, who were knocked out of the 2023 Centennial Cup in the quarterfinals, but returned to go undefeated at the Sixteen Mile Sports Complex. With the win, the Blues became the first Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL) team to win Canada’s National Junior A Championship since the Cobourg Cougars in 2017, and the first OJHL champions to win the national title since the Aurora Tigers in 2007 (Cobourg was the host team).

The first period had no scoring, with Collingwood holding a 13-4 edge in shots. The deadlock continued until the 4:01 mark of the second period, when Jack Silverman (Toronto, ON) tipped a shot past Melfort goaltender James Venne (Saskatoon, SK) on the power play to give his team a 1-0 lead.

“I was just trying to stay calm. The goal came halfway through the game and we still had a long way to go,” Silverman said. “We had been playing well and we got the bounce that was coming to us, I was in the right spot and Robbie [Jack Robertson] put a perfect shot right on my stick and I was happy to tip it home. The amount of people around the rink cheering us on, it’s really the best feeling in the world to have the best fans in this league.”

Goaltending would be the story for the rest of the game as both netminders would turn aside every shot that came their way. Noah Pak (Oakville, ON) turned aside all 23 shots he faced on the way to Collingwood’s first national title.

“All the work that everyone puts in—we worked so hard for this. To get it done means the world,” said head coach Andrew Campoli. “I’ll be honest, it hurt leaving last time, and [coming into this year’s tournament] we had some unfinished business and the job is done.”

Full game stats and story are available HERE.

Collingwood was undefeated through the preliminary round to win Group A with a perfect 4-0 record. The Blues posted wins over the Calgary Canucks (5-4), Greater Sudbury Cubs (10-2), Collège Français de Longueuil (8-0), Navan Grads (3-2) before a 5-2 semifinal win over the Miramichi Timberwolves.

Before the game, the tournament award winners were announced:

  • Most Valuable Player: Julien Gervais (Windsor, ON) – Calgary Canucks
  • Best Forward: Dalton Andrew (Brandon, MB) – Winkler Flyers
  • Best Defender: Leith Olafson (Wasa, BC) – Melfort Mustangs
  • Best Goaltender: Jaeden Nelson (Ottawa, ON) – Navan Grads
  • Most Sportsmanlike Player: Riley Hearn (Calgary, AB) – Calgary Canucks

 

For more information on Hockey Canada and the 2024 Centennial Cup, please visit HockeyCanada.ca, or follow along through social media on FacebookX and Instagram.

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Centennial Cup at Sixteen Mile Sports Complex in Oakville, Ontario

11 days in Oakville, by the numbers

A facts-and-figures look at the 2024 Centennial Cup, on and off the ice

Shannon Coulter
|
May 19, 2024

From 117 teams down to two, either the Collingwood Blues or the Melfort Mustangs will be lifting the Centennial Cup.

As we prepare to crown Canada’s national Junior A champions, let’s look back at the 2024 Centennial Cup, presented by Tim Hortons, by the numbers.

3 – Shutouts through the semifinals; Collingwood’s Noak Pak (against Longueuil), Winkler’s Malachi Klassen (against Oakville) and Greater Sudbury’s Noah Beaulne (against Longueuil) all earned clean sheets.

7 – Days between when the Miramichi Timberwolves won the MHL championship to qualify for the Centennial Cup and their first game of the tournament.

16 – Officials who worked the Centennial Cup. The crew had a wide representation from across the country, from Edmonton, Alberta, to Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia.

29 – Shootout attempts by players; the Melfort Mustangs, Calgary Canucks and Miramichi Timberwolves each earned shootout victories in the preliminary round, with none going past the required five rounds.

40 – Days between the conclusion of the host Oakville Blades’ playoff run and their first game of the tournament, the longest break of any competing team (the Calgary Canucks had the second-longest at 22 days).

49 – Power play goals scored through the semifinals. Spencer Young and Cody Pisarczyk lead the tournament with three power play goals each.

141 – Media interviews conducted through the semifinals. This includes broadcast interviews for the HockeyCanada.ca livestream, accredited media from the CJHL and Hockey Canada feature stories.

120 – Volunteers to help the tournament run behind the scenes, including off-ice officials, team services and transportation.

121 – Canadians who attended their first hockey game through the Tim Hortons Families First program. The families were treated to Hockey Canada swag and centre-ice tickets, and enjoyed Tim Hortons after the game.

150 – Members of the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies who attended the preliminary-round game between the Sioux Lookout Bombers and Melfort Mustangs in honour of Children and Youth in Care Day, celebrated on May 14.

167 – Goals scored through the semifinals. Miramichi Timberwolves’ Elliot Robert had seven goals in six games for the most goals by one player.

377 – Accreditations issued for team personnel.

678 – Pucks used through the semifinals.

1,455 – Minutes of hockey played through the semifinals. Only three games went beyond 60 minutes – Melfort vs. Winkler, Calgary vs. Navan and Miramichi vs. Winkler all required shootouts to decide a winner.

1,440 – Bottles of Gatorade consumed by the 10 teams.

1,497 – Students and staff that cheered on teams during the five school-day games.

9,204 – Kilometres travelled by all teams to Oakville (according to Google Maps). The shortest distance travelled was by the Collingwood Blues, who are 124.6 km away, while the Calgary Canucks travelled 2700.5 km to compete.

39,423 – Photos taken by Hockey Canada Images photographers Heather Pollock and Lori Bolliger through the semifinals. They included on-ice action, player headshots, behind-the-scenes exclusives and partner activations.

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Molinaro gets his moment

After getting a taste of the Centennial Cup last season, albeit from the sidelines, Julian Molinaro has backstopped the Calgary Canucks to the National Junior A Championship

Jason La Rose
|
May 17, 2024

One year ago, Julian Molinaro watched every second of the Centennial Cup from the bench.

In fact, the goaltender didn’t see the ice at all in the Collingwood Blues’ run to the quarterfinals of Canada’s National Junior A Championship, serving as backup as Noah Pak played every second of the Blues’ 24 postseason games.

But this season, it’s a much different story.

One thing has remained the same, though—Molinaro is back at the national championship. He’s just got a much more active role, stopping pucks for the Calgary Canucks as they chase a national title.

And since the hockey gods work in mysterious ways, it was fitting that when Molinaro and the Canucks hit the ice for their first game on May 9, it was Pak standing in the crease at the other end.

Neither goaltender will be adding that game to their personal highlight reel—Molinaro allowed five goals on 26 shots, while Pak surrendered four for just the sixth time in 62 starts as the Canucks dropped a 5-4 decision in a game dominated by special teams.

“Before [the game], I walked into the rink and I saw the Collingwood equipment manager, Richard Judges. So it was kind of crazy,” Molinaro says of seeing familiar faces. “Once I got on the ice, it was so weird playing against Noah and [Mark] McIntosh, [Spencer] Young, all those guys. Obviously, I didn't have my best [game]. Probably one of my worst games of the year, but it's all right. We'll see them again, hopefully.”

When the 2022-23 season ended for Collingwood with its 4-2 loss to the Ottawa Jr. Senators in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, so too did Molinaro’s time as a Blue. He was terrific as a backup, fashioning a 2.33 goals-against average and .901 save percentage in 20 appearances, but with Pak set to return for a final Junior A season, Molinaro was ready for a change, and an opportunity to be a starter.

Enter Canucks head coach and general manager Brad Moran, who officially acquired the goaltender on July 11.

“I know he didn't play in the playoffs, but he had been through the experience,” Moran says of Molinaro’s time in Collingwood, “and to come through a winning team in a playoffs where you don't play, but have your teammates, coaches and everyone else commending you for the attitude [and] the effort was something that definitely opened our eyes.”

The Mississauga, Ontario, native was even better than advertised, leading all Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) puck-stoppers with 27 wins and six shutouts, and finishing third with a 2.60 GAA and .916 save percentage.

He then won 12 of his 15 postseason starts with terrific numbers (2.56 GAA, .908 SV%), backstopping the Canucks to their first AJHL championship since 1999 and their first trip to the Centennial Cup since they won their lone national title in 1995.

“Deep down I knew I could [be a starter], but you don't actually know until you do it,” Molinaro says. “And once I got the chance and the opportunity to run with things and Brad gave me the ball, I think I really got in the groove and it helped me a lot. It's a great feeling, knowing you have the whole staff and team behind you.”

“He came in, he was the top goalie in our league this year in my mind, and gave us a chance to win every night,” Moran adds. “He pushed our guys on and off the ice, and that's what we want.”

Two days after the Canucks finished their sweep of the Whitecourt Wolverines to win the AJHL title, Molinaro officially committed to Northern Michigan University, where he’ll join the Wildcats this fall.

It’s been nothing but success for the 20-year-old, and no one is happier for him than his former partner.

“He's got an unreal work ethic, one of the hardest working guys I know,” Pak says. “I'm super happy for him and getting his commitment and his success this year… couldn't be happier for him.”

But there’s one more piece of the puzzle that makes this homecoming even more special for Molinaro.

He and his father, Jason, were fixtures at Blades games as Julian grew up, and when the Canucks stepped onto the ice at the Sixteen Mile Sports Complex for the first time, Molinaro knew just where to look.

“I almost started crying, because my dad was in the corner where we grew up watching Blades games,” he says. “I've been at this rink since I was seven years old watching the Blades every Friday night, and me and my dad always sat in the same corner, and now to be on the ice and him to be in that corner, I think it's unbelievable. It's really full circle.”

Now all that’s left is the Hollywood ending. The Canucks face the Winkler Flyers in a Friday quarterfinal, with a semifinal date with the Melfort Mustangs awaiting the winner.

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In my own words: Dampy Brar

The coach, mentor, teacher and Willie O’Ree Community Award winner talks about his journey in the game, and the importance of making an impact with the South Asian community

Dampy Brar
|
May 17, 2024

For countless generations, my family lived in Punjab, India. They were honest, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth people. Each generation took over the farming and continued the family traditions and lifestyle.

My dad had a different dream for himself and for his future family. A dream to come to Canada and start a new life with new opportunities. But he never imagined that his Canadian dream would include hockey.

At the age of four, I vividly remember sitting on the front step of our townhouse in Sparwood, B.C., the town I was born in, watching a group of older boys play street hockey. I was instantly intrigued. My dad recognized my interest and bought me a plastic hockey stick with a pink blade, yellow shaft and a black rubber knob, which also came with two plastic pucks. I would play non-stop in our undeveloped basement, shooting into a milk crate.

As the hockey season approached, we were fortunate enough to have older East Indian family friends whose boys played minor hockey in Sparwood, so my dad registered me. There was only one problem – I had never been on skates.

I was incredibly lucky to have a great skating instructor; his name was Tander Sandhu, and he was 11 years old. He says it took me 15 minutes in an old pair of his skates that weren’t even my size to start skating on my own. By the age of eight, I was moved up to play with the older kids after scoring 21 goals in two games.

I kept scoring several goals per game, and then early in the season when I was 11 years old, they implemented a rule that players could only score three goals in a game. Even though I was a playmaker and had a lot of assists, it was pretty well-known that this rule was created because of me. In hindsight, it made me an even better passer; however, my family always wonders if that rule was not implemented how much more attention and exposure would I have received in the hockey community.

I was born in Canada, and simply loved the game. I saw all my teammates and their families in the same manner, but not everyone looked at me as an equal. As a kid, perhaps I was oblivious to the looks and comments. The racism piece really came to light when I was eight. After my third goal, a player on the opposing team, who was from a nearby town, yelled something at me several times while I was taking the face-off against him. A word that started with the letter P, but I couldn’t fully understand what he was saying.

After scoring two more goals, he continued yelling the same word at me over and over again. I can still see what he was wearing, his facial expressions and his anger. I remember feeling scared. I didn’t know what I did wrong, and why he was so upset with me. My teammate told me he was saying something really bad about me. Something about how I look. The taunting continued, but I managed to focus on playing the game and having fun. After finishing the game with 13 goals, he shook my hand and said the word ‘Paki’ yet again, right to my face.

All weekend the incident rolled through my mind. On Monday morning at recess, I asked my older East Indian friend, who also played hockey, what ‘Paki’ meant. He explained that is what they call us in a negative way to make fun of us. It was a name assigned to me because of the colour of my skin.

I got used to hearing it over the years. However, the worst had to be hearing from a parent when I was 15 years old. Just before the game started, with the arena pretty quiet, the father of the opposing goaltender yelled to his son, “Don’t let that f*cking Paki score!” and then looked straight at me with glaring eyes.

Towards the end of that season, we went to a small town in Crowsnest Pass in southern Alberta. It was a Friday night game, and a bunch of teenagers came to cheer on their home team. Instead of watching the game, they stood away from the parents and threw constant racial slurs at me while making inappropriate gestures.

I have never repeated what they said. But if we want to invoke change, we need to be honest with what was said and done. They were saying things like, “Go back home, Paki,” or “Put curry on the puck, it will slide better,” or “Where is the red dot on your forehead?” Any time I took a face-off in front of them, or simply skated past them, they banged their hands on the glass and tried to scare and intimate me.

We won 6-4 that night. My parents were so happy on the car ride home, as they thought I played well; however, I was quiet and numb. When I got home, I had tears in my eyes and asked my parents, “Who cares about the game, did you not see what was happening?” They told me that if I wanted to be an elite player and represent our culture, it was something I would need to endure. My dad then told me some stories of the racism he had gone through on the streets and in the workforce. He wanted to shield me from it, but sadly he could not.

It was then that I really started to envision that one day I would use hockey to earn respect, and then turn around and help other South Asian players and their families.

I had the goal of playing professional hockey, but as we all know, the path to get there is extremely complicated. With immigrant parents, no mentors and no internet, navigating the hockey system was very difficult. Some how, some way, I made it through Junior B to Junior A and to Concordia University College in Edmonton. But I started to doubt that college hockey was the right decision to get me to my goal.

After a few games, an ex-NHL coach turned agent named Bill Laforge Sr. came to watch us play. He was gracious enough to take me under his wing and send me on my way to play pro hockey in the United States.

In my seven-year career, I played five seasons with the Tacoma Sabercats in the West Coast Hockey League (WCHL), where I had two stand-out coaches: three years with John Olver and two with Robert Dirk, who I coach with now at the Okanagan Hockey Academy.

During this time, I really grew not only as a hockey player, but as a person. I learned the importance of community work and giving back. The city showed me a lot of love in return, which overshadowed any discrimination. I won the WCHL championship with the Sabercats in 1999, played in the WCHL All-Star Game and was voted Most Popular Player by the fans in all five of my seasons.

A few other milestones were getting called up to play in the International Hockey League (IHL) with the Las Vegas Thunder, and the following year, signing a two-way contract with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League (AHL), an affiliate of my favourite team, the Edmonton Oilers.

I hung up my skates at the end of the 2002-03 season and knew I had to fulfil my other goal of paying it forward and giving back.

When my now-16-year-old son started playing Timbits, I got involved in assisting, educating, mentoring and coaching our South Asian youth and their families. A few years later, I delved deeper into women’s hockey when my daughter started playing. I was lucky enough to help take this internationally when a women’s team from Leh Ladakh, India, came to Canada for the first time to participate in WickFest, run by Team Canada icon Hayley Wickenheiser.

In the end, my passion for the game comes back to providing support and guidance to South Asian and other ethnic players, connecting the community, highlighting players and parents, and spreading information.

It was through my work with the South Asian community that I was honoured in 2020 to receive the Willie O’Ree Community Award, becoming the first South Asian to win an NHL award, which really drove me to continue to make an impact in the diversity and inclusion component of the game.

Already, we see a number of NHL teams recognize the contributions of the South Asian community by holding a South Asian Heritage Night. I have had the privilege of being part of the Honour Guard or dropping the puck for the Los Angeles Kings, Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.

Change is slow, but where there is a will, there is a way. Together we will help improve hockey culture and grow the game we all love. Just like in my hockey journey from the age of four to when I played my last professional game, perseverance and resilience are important factors.

Any road to success will always be under construction.

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Brian’s life behind the bench

Brian Sugiyama has spent the last three decades coaching his kids, his grandkids, other people’s kids, and even other coaches who – much like he does – just want to make the game better

Chris Jurewicz
|
May 13, 2024

When you spend decades doing something you love, you evolve.

Brian Sugiyama has been behind the bench, in the dressing room and on the ice helping kids and young adults become better hockey players and people for the past 30 years.

The 72-year-old Nanaimo, B.C., resident maybe hasn’t seen it all, but he has seen quite a bit, more than most, and has a good sense of what it takes to be a great hockey coach.

“When I first started doing the coaching development stuff, I thought it was more the technical and science of coaching,” says Sugiyama. “Now, I think it’s more the art of coaching, that you’re working with young men and women, sometimes they just graduated from playing minor hockey themselves, sometimes they’re parents. They all seem to think it’s about the Xs and Os and the practices, where I think it’s really more the psychology of coaching, working on childhood development, how kids get along and that you have developed within your team that bonding and that whole area of respect within your teams, respect for your opponents and others involved in the game, like the officials.”

Sugiyama is a member of Hockey Canada’s Coaching Program Delivery Group. He is district coach coordinator for Vancouver Island and clinic facilitator for Coach 1, Coach 2 and Development 1 programs within the National Coach Certification Program, teaching hundreds of new and experienced coaches each year. He is also a High Performance 1 coach mentor and Development 1 coach field evaluator.

To attain those credentials requires time, dedication, experience, patience and an incredibly strong and thorough knowledge of Canada’s game.

Sugiyama has all of those traits.

His journey began, as so many Canadian hockey stories do, on backyard and outdoor rinks. Sugiyama was born and raised in Edmonton and got his start outside when his father built a backyard rink.

As his love of the game grew, so did his skill and commitment. Sugiyama played competitively with the Maple Leaf Athletic Club through his teenage years. He got his start in coaching when he helped out with his younger brother’s team. And then, in the early 1980s, Sugiyama did what so many dads do – get involved in coaching with his own’s son’s team. He and wife Karen have four children and all of them grew up playing hockey.

“I started coaching local recreational divisions at the younger age groups and then you get into wanting to be better as a coach, and you start taking some courses,” says Sugiyama. “I coached a competitive U11 team and you encounter the good, bad and whatever. I still got a lot from it. I thought I could contribute to not only my kids’ development, but other kids as well.”

Later in life, the family moved to Vancouver, where they still reside. And the Sugiyama name is perhaps just as well known in Nanaimo as it is in Edmonton, given the years of service and dedication to hockey given by Brian and the rest of the family.

TJ Fisher helped coach a U15 co-ed recreational team during the 2023-24 season with Brian, one that included one of Sugiyama’s granddaughters and one of Fisher’s kids.

“It’s so neat to see a grandpa coaching grandkids. You never see that,” says Fisher. “It’s one of those things for people my age, it’s like the life goal where you have to keep on evolving with the next generation. He stays current and is totally relatable. He’s really up on technology to be able to be current to both teach his clinics and to stay current with the kids on the team.”

Erin Wilson has also been inspired by Sugiyama. Wilson and Sugiyama coached together during the 2021-22 season and have known one another for close to three decades.

“As both a parent and coach, I really value Brian's focus on fair play and sportsmanship,” says Wilson. “His encouragement of every player to be a contributing part of the team is so valuable and important for individual character development, self-worth and team play. This focus on fair play and sportsmanship is something I try and replicate and is a strong value and focus I believe in when I am coaching a team.”

Sugiyama has been on the bench of competitive and recreational teams and believes there is a gap that will need to be filled on the rec side. Often, there are plenty of moms and dads who want to help out with competitive teams, but a shortage of coaches who want to pitch in on the recreational side.

His impact hasn’t just been felt by regular Canadian moms and dads, though. In recent years, Sugiyama has facilitated and led courses attended by some well-known retired former NHLers who want to give back and coach.

“This last season, I’ve had people like Andrew Ladd and Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith take the courses,” says Sugiyama. “They’re coming back and imparting their knowledge back to a hockey academy or a team in their community. They come back supportive of what Hockey Canada is doing with the development of coaching.”

Sugiyama jokes with his course attendees that he’s “getting long in the tooth,” but continues his involvement and will as long as he can. That’s not only good news for kids on the ice, but the men and women who have a chance to learn from Sugiyama.

“It’s special to see that whole family,” says Fisher. “He’s still coaching, his kids are coaching, the grandkids are playing. It’s pretty awesome.”

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Miramichi Timberwolves

Road to the 2024 Centennial Cup: Miramichi Timberwolves

After winning their first-ever league championship, the MHL champions have set their eyes on a national title

Shannon Coulter
|
May 08, 2024

This year’s playoffs are one for the record books for the Miramichi Timberwolves, and now the focus turns to an opportunity to compete for a national title at the 2024 Centennial Cup, presented by Tim Hortons.

When the postseason began, the Timberwolves were in the middle of the Maritime Junior Hockey League (MHL) standings, fourth with a 31-16-2 record, scoring the fifth-most goals (211), allowing the fourth-most goals against (182). Special teams were a bright spot for Miramichi, boasting an 82.1% success rate on the penalty kill.

However, when it was time for the playoffs, the Timberwolves kicked things into high gear. After a five-game series with the third-place West Kent Steamers, Miramichi swept the Edmundston Blizzard for a spot in the MHL final against the first-place Summerside Western Capitals.

It was a close matchup with five one-goal games, but the Timberwolves got the job done in six games to win the first MHL championship in their 24th season and advance to the Centennial Cup for the first time.

Ludovic Dufort was a leader on offence, registering 46 goals and 82 points during the regular season. The 21-year-old added three goals and 16 points during the playoffs.

Goaltender Jack Flanagan came off the bench during Game 3 against the Steamers and went on an 11-2 run, posting a 2.86 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. The 19-year-old earned playoff MVP honours for his efforts.

The Timberwolves also have talent behind the bench. Kory Baker played 15 years of pro hockey in the ECHL, Sweden, Denmark and Finland before returning home to Miramichi to become head coach at the start of the 2022-23 season.

It’s been over 20 years since an Atlantic team has won Canada’s National Junior A Championship. The Halifax Oland Exports were the last national titlists, winning on home ice in 2002.

HOW THEY GOT TO OAKVILLE

Maritime Junior Hockey League
Quarterfinal: defeated West Kent Steamers 4-1 (3-5, 5-1, 2-1, 5-4, 4-3 OT)
Semifinal: defeated Edmundston Blizzard 4-0 (3-2, 5-4, 4-3 2OT, 4-2)
Final: defeated Summerside Western Capitals 4-2 (5-6 2OT, 5-1, 4-3, 4-3, 1-2 2OT, 5-4)

REGULAR SEASON

Record (W-L-OTL): 31-16-2 (4th in MHL)
Goals for: 211 (5th in MHL)
Goals against: 182 (4th in MHL)
Power play: 43 for 209 (20.6% – 7th in MHL)
Penalty killing: 170 of 207 (82.1% – 3rd in MHL)
Longest winning streak: 7 (Sept. 27-Oct. 22)

Top 3 scorers:
• Ludovic Dufort – 46G 36A 82P (3rd in MHL)
• Hugo Audette – 14G 46A 60P (18th in MHL)
• Jeremy Duhamel – 23G 35A 58P (20th in MHL)

PLAYOFFS

Record: 12-3
Goals for: 59
Goals against: 44
Power play: 11 for 52 (21.2%)
Penalty killing: 42 of 53 (79.2%)

Top 3 scorers:
• Zachael Turgeon – 9G 14A 23P
• David Doucet – 13G 7A 20P
• Hugo Audette – 3G 17A 20P

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY

First appearance

COLLEGE & UNIVERSITY COMMITMENTS

Jeremy Duhamel – Nipissing University (2024-25)

CJHL TOP 20 RANKINGS

Oct. 2 – not ranked
Oct. 9 – 16th
Oct. 16 – 8th
Oct. 23 – 8th
Oct. 30 – 9th
Nov. 6 – 14th
Nov. 13 – 19th
Nov. 20 – not ranked
Nov. 27 – Honourable Mention
Dec. 4 – not ranked
Dec. 11 – not ranked
Dec. 18 – not ranked
Jan. 8 – not ranked
Jan. 15 – not ranked
Jan. 22 – not ranked
Jan. 29 – not ranked
Feb. 5 – not ranked
Feb. 12 – not ranked
Feb. 19 – not ranked
Feb. 26 – not ranked
March 4 – not ranked
March 11 – 11th

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Greater Sudbury Cubs

Road to the 2024 Centennial Cup: Navan Grads

The CCHL champions finally got over the hump to win their first league crown and move into the national spotlight

Jason La Rose
|
May 08, 2024

Thirty-two years in the making, the Navan Grads are finally going to play under the brightest lights in Junior A hockey.

The Grads claimed their first-ever Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL) championship – and earned a place at the 2024 Centennial Cup, presented by Tim Hortons, in the process – by downing the Pembroke Lumber Kings, Rockland Nationals and Smiths Falls Bears.

Amazingly, the three series wins brought the Grads’ all-time total to FOUR since joining the CCHL (then known as the Central Junior A Hockey League) in 1991. The only previous victory? A sweep of the Kanata Stallions in 2003.

Navan was the class of the CCHL in the regular season, finishing 11 points clear of Smiths Falls on the back of a league-best offence (235 goals scored) led by Gabriel Crete (24-50—74) and Devon Savignac (35-31—66), who were third and fourth, respectively in CCHL scoring.

At the other end of the ice, Jaeden Nelson was a workhorse; the 17-year-old rookie was fourth in the CCHL with 2,173 minutes played, and posted top-five finishes in wins (25, first) goals-against average (2.57, fourth), save percentage (.921, third) and shutouts (3, tied for third).

The Grads ran into early adversity in the playoffs, pushed to double overtime in Game 5 of their first-round series against the Lumber Kings with the series even at 2-2. But Sebbie Johnson scored the winner, Navan closed out the series in Game 6 and never trailed in a series again.

It’s been 13 years since Pembroke won the most recent National Junior A Championship by a CCHL team. It has been in the mix over the last decade, though; the Ottawa Jr. Senators reached the semifinals in 2018 , 2019 and 2023, while the Carleton Place Canadians were national runners-up in 2014 and 2015.

HOW THEY GOT TO OAKVILLE

Central Canada Hockey League
Quarterfinal: defeated Pembroke Lumber Kings 4-2 (5-1, 2-1 OT, 1-3, 1-5, 5-4 2OT, 4-3)
Semifinal: defeated Rockland Nationals 4-1 (5-4. 1-0 OT, 4-6, 5-3, 1-0)
Final: defeated Smiths Falls Bears 4-2 (3-2 OT, 3-4 OT, 4-1, 3-2, 0-5, 5-2)

REGULAR SEASON

Record (W-L-OTL): 41-9-5 (1st in CCHL)
Goals for: 235 (1st in CCHL)
Goals against: 144 (3rd in CCHL)
Power play: 36 for 183 (19.7% - 5th in CCHL)
Penalty killing: 186 of 216 (86.1% - 3rd in CCHL)
Longest winning streak: 9 (Feb. 23-March 16)

Top 3 scorers:
• Gabriel Crete – 24G 50A 74P (3rd in CCHL)
• Devon Savignac – 35G 31A 66P (4th in CCHL)
• Sebbie Johnson – 24G 25A 49P (23rd in CCHL)

PLAYOFFS

Record: 12-5
Goals for: 52
Goals against: 46
Power play: 11 for 60 (18.3%)
Penalty killing: 53 of 61 (86.9%)

Top 3 scorers:
• Colin MacDougall – 10G 11A 21P
• Sebbie Johnson – 6G 12A 18P
• Nicholas Paone – 7G 7A 14P

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY

First appearance

COLLEGE & UNIVERSITY COMMITMENTS

Gabriel Crete – Mercyhurst University (2024-25)
Cristobal Tola – Amherst College (2024-25)
Matthew Roy – Bowdoin College (2024-25)
Devon Savignac – Concordia University Wisconsin (2024-25)

CJHL TOP 20 RANKINGS

Oct. 2 – not ranked
Oct. 9 – not ranked
Oct. 16 – not ranked
Oct. 23 – not ranked
Oct. 30 – Honourable Mention
Nov. 6 – Honourable Mention
Nov. 13 – 20th
Nov. 20 – 18th
Nov. 27 – 17th
Dec. 4 – 17th
Dec. 11 – 13th
Dec. 18 – 14th
Jan. 8 – 11th
Jan. 15 – 13th
Jan. 22 – 16th
Jan. 29 – 11th
Feb. 5 – 11th
Feb. 12 – 6th
Feb. 19 – 7th
Feb. 26 – 7th
March 4 – 7th
March 11 – 5th

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Melfort Mustangs

Road to the 2024 Centennial Cup: Melfort Mustangs

It was a challenging playoff journey, but the SJHL champions are hungry to bring a national title back to Saskatchewan

Shannon Coulter
|
May 07, 2024

It’s been quite the playoff run for the Melfort Mustangs, and now their postseason will continue at the 2024 Centennial Cup, presented by Tim Hortons.

The Mustangs finished with a 38-14-4 record in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL)—which placed them second to the Flin Flon Bombers. Defence and goaltending stood out for Melfort, allowing only 158 goals (second in SJHL) and having a strong penalty kill (88.2% - second).

In the playoffs, Melfort wrapped up a five-game series against the Estevan Bruins to set up a semifinal against the Humboldt Broncos. The series pushed both teams to the limit and included seven periods of overtime, ending on Ryan Duguay’s goal 2:55 into overtime in Game 7 that propelled the Mustangs to the league final.

The season came down to the Mustangs and the Bombers—who had spent 15 consecutive weeks in the No. 1 spot of the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) rankings. But Melfort began the series with a defiant 9-2 victory and wrapped up the title in six games.

James Venne led the Mustangs in the crease this year. Referred to as the best goalie in Mustangs history by head coach and general manager, Trevor Blevins, Venne led the SJHL with 2,661 minutes played during the regular season, boasting a .912 save percentage and 2.62 goals-against average. In the playoffs, the 20-year-old had a 12-3 record with a 2.50 GAA and a .925 save percentage.

Aidyn Hutchinson was the top skater for the Mustangs, finishing third in SJHL scoring with 33 goals and 78 points during the regular season before adding 15 goals and 32 points in the playoffs.

The Mustangs are hungry for a national title—it has been a decade since the Yorkton Terriers defeated the Carleton Place Canadians 4-3 in overtime to give the Prairie league its most recent National Junior A Championship.

HOW THEY GOT TO OAKVILLE

Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League
Quarterfinal: defeated Estevan Bruins 4-1 (5-1, 7-4, 3-4, 5-2, 4-2)
Semifinal: defeated Humboldt Broncos 4-3 (4-2, 4-3, 2-3 3OT, 4-3 OT, 2-4, 3-4 2OT, 5-4 OT)
Final: defeated Flin Flon Bombers 4-2 (9-2, 4-1, 4-3 2OT, 3-4 OT, 2-5, 4-1)

REGULAR SEASON

Record (W-L-OTL): 38-14-4 (2nd in SJHL)
Goals for: 218 (4th in SJHL)
Goals against: 158 (2nd in SJHL)
Power play: 58 for 268 (21.6% – 5th in SJHL)
Penalty killing: 208 of 250 (88.2% – 2nd in SJHL)
Longest winning streak: 9 (Feb. 16-March 10)

Top 3 scorers:
• Aidyn Hutchinson – 33G 45A 78P (3rd in SJHL)
• Clay Sleeva – 25G 34A 59P (15th in SJHL)
• Chase Friedt-Mohr – 14G 42A 56P (20th in SJHL)

PLAYOFFS

Record: 12-6
Goals for: 74
Goals against: 52
Power play: 14 for 72 (19.4%)
Penalty killing: 60 of 75 (80.0%)

Top 3 scorers:
• Aidyn Hutchinson – 15G 17A 32P
• Ryan Duguay – 14G 10A 24P
• Chase Friedt-Mohr – 9G 15A 24P

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY

2015 – Melfort Mustangs | 4th place | 2-3 | 12GF 19GA
1996 – Melfort Mustangs | runners-up | 5-1 | 35GF 10GA

COLLEGE & UNIVERSITY COMMITMENTS

Chase Friedt-Mohr – University of Regina (2024-25)
Hayden Prosofsky – Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (2024-25)
Zackery Somers – University of Maine (2024-25)

CJHL TOP 20 RANKINGS

Oct. 2 – 6th
Oct. 9 – 4th
Oct. 16 – 7th
Oct. 23 – 11th
Oct. 30 – Honourable Mention
Nov. 6 – not ranked
Nov. 13 – not ranked
Nov. 20 – not ranked
Nov. 27 – not ranked
Dec. 4 – not ranked
Dec. 11 – not ranked
Dec. 18 – not ranked
Jan. 8 – Honourable Mention
Jan. 15 – not ranked
Jan. 22 – Honourable Mention
Jan. 29 – Honourable Mention
Feb. 5 – 15th
Feb. 12 – not ranked
Feb. 19 – not ranked
Feb. 26 – Honourable Mention
March 4 – 12th
March 11 – 11th

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Greater Sudbury Cubs

Road to the 2024 Centennial Cup: Collingwood Blues

The OJHL champions dominated defensively to defend their title and earn a return trip to the national stage

Jason La Rose
|
May 07, 2024

They’re back!

The Collingwood Blues will be the only returnee at the 2024 Centennial Cup, presented by Tim Hortons, after defending their Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL) championship with a dominant defensive performance.

The Blues, who were knocked out in the quarterfinals a year ago in Portage la Prairie, lost only seven times in 56 regular-season games and dropped only three of 19 on their playoff run, stifling opponents from the goaltender out.

They allowed just 88 goals in the regular season – a miniscule average of 1.57 per game and 56 fewer than the second-best Trenton Golden Hawks – before giving up 36 in 19 postseason contests.

Noah Pak put up video-game numbers in the Collingwood goal, going 37-5 with a 1.30 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and 12 (that’s right, 12!) shutouts. In his 41 starts, he allowed more than three goals exactly twice, and zero or one a whopping 25 times.

But that’s not to say the Blues can’t put the puck in the net. Exactly the opposite, in fact. They finished second with 284 goals – just five back of Trenton – with Dylan Hudon and his 73 points (29-44—73) leading an offence that featured eight 50-point scorers and seven who reached the 20-goal plateau.

Collingwood was rarely tested as it rolled through the playoffs. It posted sweeps of Brantford and Leamington in the opening round and West Conference final, respectively, and dropped just one game to Oakville, losing Game 4 after winning the first three against the Centennial Cup hosts.

It’s lone bit of adversity came in the league final when Trenton evened the series with wins in Games 3-4, but the Blues retook the advantage with a 7-2 rout in Game 5 and finished things off on the road.

Making the short 144-kilometre trip south to Oakville, the Blues will look to become the first OJHL champion to win Canada’s National Junior A Championship since the Aurora Tigers in 2007.

HOW THEY GOT TO OAKVILLE

Ontario Junior Hockey League
Round 1: defeated Brantford 99ers 4-0 (2-1 2OT, 5-1, 4-0, 4-3)
Quarterfinal: defeated Oakville Blades 4-1 (3-2, 4-2, 10-1, 3-5, 3-0)
Semifinal: defeated Leamington Flyers 4-0 (3-0, 2-1 OT, 6-2, 4-2)
Final: defeated Trenton Golden Hawks 4-2 (5-4, 4-0, 4-5, 1-3, 7-2, 3-2)

REGULAR SEASON

Record (W-L-T-OTL): 49-6-0-1 (1st in OJHL)
Goals for: 284 (2nd in OJHL)
Goals against: 88 (1st in OJHL)
Power play: 56 for 173 (32.4% - 2nd in OJHL)
Penalty killing: 139 of 167 (83.2% - 6th in OJHL)
Longest winning streak: 14 (Dec. 22-Feb. 11)

Top 3 scorers:
• Dylan Hudon – 29G 44A 73P (13th in OJHL)
• Spencer Young – 39G 33A 72P (14th in OJHL)
• Jack Rimmer – 25G 40A 65P (24th in OJHL)

PLAYOFFS

Record: 16-3
Goals for: 77
Goals against: 36
Power play: 21 for 71 (29.6%)
Penalty killing: 70 of 79 (88.6%)

Top 3 scorers:
• Spencer Young – 12G 18A 30P
• Dylan Hudon – 10G 14A 24P
• Jack Rimmer – 10G 12A 22P

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY

2023 – Collingwood Blues | 5th place | 3-2 | 14GF 11GA

COLLEGE & UNIVERSITY COMMITMENTS

Declan Bowmaster – Merrimack College (2025-26)
Ryan Cook – Wilfrid Laurier University (2024-25)
Cameron Eke – Niagara University (2025-26)
Dylan Hudon – University of Guelph (2024-25)
Marcus Lougheed – Lake Superior State University (2025-26)
Noah Pak – Yale University (2024-25)
Jack Rimmer – Niagara University (2025-26)
Jack Silverman – Middlebury College (2024-25)
Landon Wright – University of Maine (2026-27)
Spencer Young – Niagara University (2024-25)

CJHL TOP 20 RANKINGS

Oct. 2 – 8th
Oct. 9 – 5th
Oct. 16 – 4th
Oct. 23 – 2nd
Oct. 30 – 2nd
Nov. 6 – 4th
Nov. 13 – 2nd
Nov. 20 – 3rd
Nov. 27 – 3rd
Dec. 4 – 3rd
Dec. 11 – 3rd
Dec. 18 – 3rd
Jan. 8 – 3rd
Jan. 15 – 3rd
Jan. 22 – 3rd
Jan. 29 – 2nd
Feb. 5 – 2nd
Feb. 12 – 2nd
Feb. 19 – 2nd
Feb. 26 – 1st
March 4 – 1st
March 11 – 1st

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Winkler Flyers

Road to the 2024 Centennial Cup: Winkler Flyers

An early-season hot streak put the MJHL champions on the path to their second trip to nationals

Shannon Coulter
|
May 06, 2024

In 1992, the Winkler Flyers were the runners-up to the Thunder Bay Flyers for Canada’s National Junior A Championship. Thirty-two years later, the Flyers have another chance at national glory at the 2024 Centennial Cup, presented by Tim Hortons.

The road to Oakville was not necessarily an easy one as the Flyers faced tough competition in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) playoffs. After a five-game series win over the Portage Terriers, the Flyers and Virden Oil Capitals had three games go to overtime—including four periods of overtime in the series-deciding Game 6, where Jakob Jones notched the game-winner for Winkler.

Two additional games went to overtime in the MJHL final, but the Flyers were able to pull off a four-game sweep over the Steinbach Pistons to lock up its spot in Oakville.

The Flyers had a strong regular season with a 42-11-5 record—the second-best record in Manitoba and equalling the fourth-most wins in franchise history (which dates back to 1980). They were red-hot from the first drop of the puck in September, winning each of their first nine games and claiming top spot in the CJHL Top 20 rankings for two weeks in late October.

Dalton Andrew and Trent Penner have led the Flyers’ offence. Andrew was the top scorer in the MJHL regular season with 43 goals and 82 points, while Penner – named MJHL MVP – followed closely behind in second with 29 goals and 78 points.

Malachi Klassen earned playoff MVP honours; the 20-year-old had a 12-3 postseason record with a 2.07 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.

The Flyers also have talent behind their bench—Justin Falk (283), Ryan White (332) and Eric Fehr (722) have a combined 1,337 games of NHL experience. Falk was hired as assistant general manager and assistant coach in March 2021, before being promoted to GM and head coach three months later. White as added as an assistant coach in August 2021, while Fehr was brought on as the director of player development in June 2022.

HOW THEY GOT TO OAKVILLE

Manitoba Junior Hockey League
Quarterfinal: defeated Portage Terriers 4-1 (4-1, 2-3, 5-3, 3-1, 6-3)
Semifinal: defeated Virden Oil Capitals 4-2 (0-4, 2-1, 1-4, 5-4 2OT, 2-1 2OT, 2-1 4OT)
Final: defeated Steinbach Pistons 4-0 (2-1, 3-1, 4-3 OT, 5-4 OT)

REGULAR SEASON

Record (W-L-OTL): 42-11-5 (2nd in MJHL)
Goals for: 234 (2nd in MJHL)
Goals against: 122 (2nd in MJHL)
Power play: 63 for 243 (25.9% – 1st in MJHL)
Penalty killing: 225 of 266 (84.6% – 3rd in MJHL)
Longest winning streak: 9 (Sept. 22-Oct. 23)

Top 3 scorers:
• Dalton Andrew – 43G 39A 82P (1st in MJHL)
• Trent Penner – 29G 49A 78P (2nd in MJHL)
• Brody Beauchemin – 13G 53A 66P (4th in MJHL)

PLAYOFFS

Record: 12-3
Goals for: 45
Goals against: 35
Power play: 8 for 43 (18.6%)
Penalty killing: 37 of 49 (75.6%)

Top 3 scorers:
• Trent Penner – 6G 8A 14P
• Dalton Andrew – 4G 10A 14P
• Zach Nicolas – 6G 7A 13P

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY

1992 – Winkler Flyers | runners-up | 3-3 | 24GF 33GA

COLLEGE & UNIVERSITY COMMITMENTS

Malachi Klassen – College of the Holy Cross (2024-25)
Zach Nicolas – Stonehill College (2024-25)
Trent Penner – University of Alaska Fairbanks (2024-25)

CJHL TOP 20 RANKINGS

Oct. 2 – 5th
Oct. 9 – 3rd
Oct. 16 – 1st
Oct. 23 – 1st
Oct. 30 – 5th
Nov. 6 – 3rd
Nov. 13 – 5th
Nov. 20 – 7th
Nov. 27 – 6th
Dec. 4 – 6th
Dec. 11 – 6th
Dec. 18 – 7th
Jan. 8 – 9th
Jan. 15 – 8th
Jan. 22 – 6th
Jan. 29 – 6th
Feb. 5 – 5th
Feb. 12 – 5th
Feb. 19 – 5th
Feb. 26 – 4th
March 4 – 4th
March 11 – 4th

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For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

Videos
Photos
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MWC: Highlights – CAN 4, CZE 3 OT (Preliminary)
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MWC: Remembering the wild ride in Riga
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Centennial: Highlights – Collingwood 1, Melfort 0 (Championship)
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MWC: Highlights – CAN 3, SUI 2 (Preliminary)
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MWC: Highlights – CAN 5, FIN 3 (Preliminary)
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NMT: Evason brings passion and pride to Prague
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MWC: Highlights – CAN 4, NOR 1 (Preliminary)
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Calgary Canucks (AJHL) vs. Melfort Mustangs (SJHL)| Centennial Cup
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Miramichi Timberwolves (MHL) vs. Collingwood Blues (OJHL)| Centennial Cup
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Centennial: From brothers to teammates
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Navan Grads (CCHL) vs. Miramichi Timberwolves (MHL) | Centennial Cup
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Winkler Flyers (MJHL) vs. Calgary Canucks (AJHL) | Centennial Cup
Schedule
HC Logo
Prague & Ostrava, Czechia
Date: May 10 to 26
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Edmonton, Alta., Canada
Date: Aug 3 to 10