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Expect Canada to be fast and skilled at the World Juniors: Paige Martin

OHL contributor Paige Martin talks about Canada's chances at the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championship and why this tournament matters so much. Martin spoke with NHL star Corey Perry about his time as a world junior player for Canada.

NHL star Corey Perry remembers playing on one of Canada's greatest junior teams

OHL contributor Paige Martin talks about Canada's chances at the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championship and why this tournament matters so much. 8:19

Wondering what to get, for Christmas, the young Ontario Hockey League star who has everything?

How about a spot on Team Canada's World Junior Championship team roster?

Hockey Canada is just now starting to make its list for the tournament. The puck drops on Boxing Day. OHL contributor Paige Martin spoke with NHL star Corey Perry, now with the Dallas Stars, about his time as a world junior player for Canada.

Here's her interview with the CBC's Conrad Collaco. You can read an abridged and edited version of the interview or listen to the full audio interview by hitting the play button above. 

Paige Martin, OHL columnist with CBC London
(Paige Martin)

I understand you spoke with Corey Perry of the Dallas Stars, a long-time NHL star and former Canadian junior team player. What did he have to say about the world junior tournament?

PM:When I was writing this story I was thinking who would be someone that could really speak to the importance of this tournament. And there really couldn't be anyone better than Corey Perry. He plays for the Dallas Stars now but he was part of what is known to be the all-star world junior team. That was alongside guys like Sidney Crosby. Patrice Bergeron, Danny Syvret, Shea Webber. They won the gold medal back in 2005 and here's what he told me about how much it meant to him. 

Corey Perry: That's what you of kind of waited for, was the world junior tournaments. It was a big deal around our house. We sat and watched the games and to put on that Canadian sweater for the first time and being part of Canada.... It's a dream come true. Going on to win the tournament... And you know in the fashion that we did win the tournament it was pretty special.

PM: What's really cool about Corey is that he wasn't actually sure that he was going to make the team. He was playing in the OHL at the time for the London Knights. And he had an incredible tryout and scored a hat trick during that final tryout game. Here's how he found out that he made the team.

Corey Perry: They called me up to the room and looked at me and said 'the only way you make this team is if you cut your hair.' And I said 'where's the barbershop?' It kind of fell into place and, you know, you start to realize, wow, you're actually going to play on TV for your country and that team that you watched as a kid. 

PM: Apparently, the hockey-flo haircut was not part of the gold medal recipe back in 2005 but skilled play certainly was and you can bet that's still what Hockey Canada is looking for.

So what type of team is Hockey Canada looking to build this time?

PM: They want players who will showcase what Canadian hockey is all about. That means they're looking for a team with high hockey IQ and speed but also a solid defensive core. Team Canada didn't make the top three last year. So, the pressure is on to maintain our reputation as a top team. I spoke with the Director of Hockey Operations for Hockey Canada. His name is Shawn Bullock and he oversees a lot of the decisions that are made when putting together a national team. 

Shawn Bullock: We want to be energized. We want to be on our toes. And certainly we want to bring the game to our opposition and not sit back and wait for it. So really that's a critical part of what we believe is the Canadian way of playing. And that's something that we believe that really is our cornerstone of how we play the game.

PM: Team Canada has been a top performer year after year so there is a certain level of expectations that Canadians, and even the competing countries, have in regards to what that means and who they choose. So, throughout the next couple weeks you can bet that Hockey Canada's scouts will be at the rink. They'll be looking across the country to call up the best players.

Who do you think will make the team from the OHL?

PM: If I had to hedge my bets Quinton Byfield has such a good chance along with Cole Perfetti. You're gonna see guys like Connor McMichael, Ty Dellandrea and Akil Thomas. All these guys wear the red and white and it used to be that Team Canada had to have regional representation but that's not the case anymore. The fact is that the OHL produces top players and if Canada is going to maintain the reputation as the team to beat it's definitely going to be filling the bench with a lot of Ontario players. I also should mention that the head coach is a big name in the OHL, Dale Hunter, and he will be assisted by head coach of the Ottawa 67s, André Tourigny, as well.

And then of course you know leading the charge is Mark Hunter from the London Knights, as well. So, there's some OHL voices in there but they've been very clear that they are going across the country. We saw Dale Hunter stand behind the bench at the Canada-Russia series in each game. He was able to get a good look at all the prospects that are coming his way in the next couple weeks. 

So what would an invitation to play for Canada in this tournament mean for the pro prospects of an OHL player?

PM: Corey was talking about how he got the call up to the hotel room. It'll be a moment that they remember for the rest of their lives. I spoke to the godfather of sports. That's what people call him, Mr. Pete James. He's seen his fair share of world junior hockey because he's been covering hockey and the OHL for over 60 years for a variety of media outlets.

Pete James: It means everything to play for the national team because they watched this thing with their parents, sincerely develop an interest in hockey at five or six-years-old, something like that, and 'gee daddy I'd like to do that someday.' And now comes the chance for you to represent your country and I mean there just isn't a better feeling in the world to me and remember we're still dealing with teenagers here.

PM: So, playing in the World Juniors is a big deal, even when NHL players look back on it. Corey Perry, who we heard from earlier, he's been in the NHL for 15 years now and this year when he was traded from the Anaheim Ducks to the Dallas Stars he found himself playing alongside Alex Radulov who was on Team Russia when Canada's team beat them in 2005. And when Corey arrived in Dallas this year he told me that one of the first things that Radulov said to him was 'man your team was good.'

The impact that team had is still being felt 15 years later and it's really a memory that a lot of hockey fans throughout the country have and think about when the world juniors come around.

I asked Corey if, when you see those guys — whether you're playing against them or at different events — is that something that comes up? And he said 'oh absolutely.' Those are some of their most cherished memories and especially when they're 19 and 20 years old. That's one of the most vulnerable ages. So, you're having the time of your life on the world stage. And then they win a gold medal.

Are you one of those people who makes watching the world junior tournament a part of your Christmas holiday tradition?

Yes! Boxing Day! It's like it becomes part of the schedule. You're eating the leftovers from Christmas dinner and watching the World Juniors. And then for the next 10 to 15 days you're wondering when does Canada play next? Who are they playing? That's a big, big thing at my house.

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