For the first time in its 29-year history, the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge is getting a major overhaul, with changes coming for the 2015 event; the tournament will go from five Canadian teams to three, and from 10 teams overall to eight.
The 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, which begins Dec. 29 in Cape Breton, N.S., will be the last to feature five regional Canadian teams – Atlantic, Ontario, Pacific, Quebec and West.
Beginning in 2015, Canada will be represented by three national teams – Black, Red and White – which will be made up of a combination of the best 66 under-17 players from across the country.
“The under-17 program is the foundation of the Program of Excellence, and for many years has been a tremendous stepping stone to Team Canada,” said Bob Nicholson, president and CEO of Hockey Canada. “The POE is the envy of the hockey world, and we think these changes will allow the program to continue to evolve and develop.”
As in past years, five international entries will compete at the 2015 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge; Finland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and the United States will round out the eight-team field.
The host of the 2015 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge will be announced in early 2014.
The five Canadian team, five international team format has been in place since the inaugural under-17 tournament, in 1986. Only once has that format changed; in 1990, the tournament included six Canadian teams – the five listed above, plus Quebec Espoirs – and four international entries.
To help identify players for the 2015 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, Hockey Canada will host the first national under-17 camp in July 2014, welcoming the best 100 players born in 1998 or later to Calgary.
“It’s really about the work of the branches,” said Scott Salmond, senior director of national teams and hockey operations for Hockey Canada. “They’ve done amazing work, particularly growing the provincial under-16 programs, and it’s that work that has allowed us to make these changes. Players are more ready than ever to be a part of the national program.”
Ryan Jankowski, Hockey Canada’s head scout for the men’s Program of Excellence, will lead player selection for both the summer camp and three national teams, with assistance from a trio of regional scouts – Donald Audette (Quebec, Atlantic Canada), Brad McEwen (Western Canada) and Darryl Woodley (Ontario).
Audette, a former NHLer, led Quebec to the bronze medal game at last year’s World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and is back behind the bench this year. McEwen is the assistant general manager and head scout with the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers, and Woodley is director of OHL Central Scouting.
Joël Bouchard, general manager of the QMJHL’s Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, will be the under-17 lead with the Program of Excellence management group, which was put in place in June to oversee hockey operations for all aspects of the program.
HOCKEY CANADA PROGRAM OF EXCELLENCE MANAGEMENT GROUP
Joël Bouchard – general manager, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, QMJHL (under-17 program)
Sean Burke – assistant to the general manager, Phoenix Coyotes, NHL (under-20 program)
Bruce Hamilton – general manager, Kelowna Rockets, WHL (under-20 program)
Mark Hunter – general manager, London Knights, OHL (under-18 program)
Scott Salmond – senior director, hockey operations/national teams, Hockey Canada