Yzerman visits Canadian junior team
Steve Yzerman has been in this situation before.
The future Hall of Famer played a few Game 7s in his storied NHL career. He also skated in Canada's victorious gold medal final at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, and was there when Canada didn't fare so well on the international stage.
Yzerman stopped by the Canadian juniors' dressing room in Ottawa Monday morning and talked to the team about the task at hand: playing Sweden in the gold medal final Monday night at the 2009 world junior hockey championship.
"I just got a chance to go in and say hi and wish them good luck," said the general manager of Canada's 2010 Olympic hockey team. "I told them to keep cool and I do not know how you do that, though. In Game 7 of Stanley Cup finals or tournament finals, the big games, the key is to figure out a way to be calm and relaxed.
"The more times you go through it, the ways you figure it out. Everyone has ways to figure it out and keep their composure and it is important to do that, to maintain your energy and maintain your focus. It is not an easy thing to do."
The Canadian juniors are looking to win a fifth straight world title, and the country's 15th overall. The Swedes won the world junior title in 1981 and lost in overtime to Canada in the final a year ago.
Yzerman is in the national capital to attend the tournament. He is also attending meetings about the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and the 2009 world championship tournament in Switzerland.
He said an Olympic head coach will be announced after the Stanley Cup finals and that a list of players in the mix for the Olympic roster has been drawn up. There will be an orientation camp in August, with the Olympic roster being announced in December.
Yzerman was in the stands for the dramatic 6-5 semifinal shootout win by Canada over Russia Saturday night and he was impressed with the resiliency of the Canadian teens.
"It was a difficult one to play because things are going well and you just can't shake them," he said, referring to how Canada and Russia alternated eight goals before Russia pulled ahead late in the game and Jordan Eberle tied it with a handful of seconds left in regulation time and then won it in the shootout.
"When Russia got that lead in the third, for the kids to stick with it, I was very impressed. It is very deflating that every time you score a goal, particularly on your home ice, you can't get a breather and I think they were incredibly composed throughout the game."
Head coach Pat Quinn definitely approved on Yzerman's address to the players.
"I do not know [that] there is a better guy to come in and visit with our guys for a couple of moments," he said.
The Canadians and Swedes each take a five-game winning streak into the gold medal final.
The Swedes are fast, have loads of skill and great goaltending.
Quinn said the Canadians are up for the task.
"We have to think about doing the little things well and everything else looks after itself," he said Monday morning. "If we are hoping or dreaming about the end results, we will likely not get there."
The atmosphere at the Scotiabank Place will be electric. More than 20,000 fans are expected to be on hand.
"People do not get the chance to work and have success in situations like this often in life," said Quinn. "So it is a great moment for them and to achieve at the end of the day, I can't imagine a better thrill for them."
Sweden coach Par Marts said his country can learn from the Canadian development system.
"You create winners and in Sweden we create hockey players and we have to learn from you," he said. "There are a lot of young guys at home watching this who will know if we can win, they can win and that is important for the young guys, for their dreams."