Canada-Russia hockey rivalry comes to P.E.I.
Plenty at stake as some of the top junior players from both countries square off in Charlottetown
One of hockey's longest and greatest rivalries comes to P.E.I. on Tuesday when all-stars from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League take on Team Russia as part of the 2017 CIBC Canada-Russia Series.
It's the 15th annual series between Canada and Russia junior hockey players, but the hockey rivalry between the two countries goes as far back as 1972.
Tuesday's game in Charlottetown will be the fifth in a six-game series and marks the first time a game has been held in P.E.I.
"It's going to be a very difficult task, it always is, but I think that's what makes hockey so great, and anytime you can be some part of a Canada-Russia rivalry in hockey you have to be excited," said Isles head coach and GM Jim Hulton, who will behind the bench as an assistant.
Hockey fans will have an opportunity to see 11 NHL prospects, including players who were selected during last June's entry draft in Chicago and the year before in Buffalo.
'Embrace the moment'
Local fans will see at least one familiar face — Islanders captain Pierre-Olivier Joseph.
It will Joseph's first taste of international hockey and he said he's looking forward to the chance to play with the best players from the Q-League.
Anytime you can be some part of a Canada-Russia rivalry in hockey you have to be excited.- Jim Hulton
"I'm pretty honoured about that," said Joseph, who was chosen 23rd overall by the Arizona Coyotes in last June's draft. "You just need to embrace the moment."
There will be much more on the line than just bragging rights when the two teams square off in Charlottetown. The series is an integral part of the identification process for Team Canada prior to the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship.
"You've got to remember each of these young men are still vying for an opportunity to potentially and hopefully go to a world junior camp and the opportunity there and represent your country, so a lot at stake for the individual," Hulton said.
"It's a wonderful showcase for the individual talents and the collective talents of our league, but for the individual it's great. It's a chance to be on TV from coast to coast and a lot of family and friends will be watching these young men and for the kids that maybe aren't on the radar as much as some of the other ones, it's a chance to improve their profile."
'It's on everyone's mind'
Joseph, who will serve as an alternate captain on Tuesday, hopes it it puts him one step closer to Team Canada.
"Yeah, it's on everyone's mind, but you don't have to think about it," Joseph said. "You don't have any control on that, so you just want to play your game and hopefully get the W at the end of the game."
The opening faceoff at the Eastlink Centre is set for 8 p.m.
The sixth and final game of the Canada Russia series will be played Wednesday at the Moncton Coliseum.
- MORE P.E.I. NEWS | UPEI rugby team heading to national championship
- MORE P.E.I. NEWS | MADD signs up P.E.I. for help with impaired driving messages