Tavares: a General until further notice
Unclear of junior hockey future, world champion wants to be known as a winner
About 18 hours after winning his second world junior hockey championship with Team Canada, star forward John Tavares expressed his desire to win another title.
But for which Ontario Hockey League team will Tavares be attempting to achieve that goal? Rumours suggest the Oshawa Generals are set to deal their captain to the London Knights prior to the league's noon ET trade deadline on Friday.
The Generals are currently in the playoff picture, sitting fifth in the 10-team Eastern Conference with an 18-15-5 record, while London (29-8-1) is second in the West. The top eight teams in each conference advance to the post-season.
"I'm very happy to be world champion again, but I always want to be known as a guy that's a winner," a tired Tavares told Hockey Night in Canada Radio host Jeff Marek on Tuesday after Canada beat Sweden 5-1 the previous night for its fifth consecutive world junior title.
"Being a competitive guy, you don't want anything but to win. I take it to heart and take a lot of pride in winning and being on a team that's successful."
The Knights, who won the 2005 Memorial Cup as the top Canadian junior team, host Oshawa on Friday night.
"Being the captain, guys look up to me to be a leader, and I want to make sure they understand I'm a General until further notice," said Tavares, who was named most valuable player at this year's world junior tournament in Ottawa.
When asked at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Tuesday about joining either London or the Windsor Spitfires, Tavares touched on his time in Oshawa.
"Both teams are obviously great, but Oshawa's been my home for 3½ years and my heart will always be there," said Tavares, who has 25 goals and 52 points in 31 games for the Generals this season.
"No matter whether I get moved or not, it's been a big part of my life and a stepping stone in my career, and they gave me the opportunity to play hockey in the OHL, so I'm very thankful for that, and the people have been very supportive to me and that's going to make it very difficult."
A potential first overall pick at this summer's NHL entry draft in Montreal, Tavares scored eight goals and 15 points in the world junior tourney, one point behind teammate Cody Hodgson at the top of the chart.
But it was another duo that Tavares felt was equally important in Canada securing its 15th world junior gold to match Russia/Soviet Union for the all-time lead.
He spoke highly of Canadian head coach Pat Quinn and retired National Hockey League forward Steve Yzerman, who visited Team Canada's dressing room prior to Monday's game.
"Obviously, when you first meet him it's a little intimidating … but he has a great sense of humour," said Tavares of Quinn, whose 657 victories as a National Hockey League coach trail only Scotty Bowman (1,244), Al Arbour (781) and Dick Irvin (692).
"We have a lot of respect for him and he understands the game so well. I'm very thankful for the opportunity he gave me and the confidence he had in me.
"Pat made sure we were ready for anything we were to face," Tavares added. "The way he approaches every situation, whether we're down or up by a goal, he knows what it takes [to win] and kept us very focused."
Canadian defenceman P.K. Subban agreed with his good friend Tavares, saying Quinn set the tone for the team.
"He's been in every situation possible," Subban, who plays for the OHL's Belleville Bulls, told HNIC Radio in reference to Quinn's gold-medal victories with Canada at the 2002 Olympics, 2004 World Cup of Hockey and IIHF under-18 tournament last April.
"He's just an unbelievable coach and he's someone who I had a lot of fun playing for."
As for Yzerman, the general manager of Canada's 2010 Olympic squad, he talked to Subban and company about controlling their emotions, reacting to mistakes in a positive way and staying strong as a team.
"He walks in the [dressing] room and you can feel his presence," Tavares said of Yzerman, who won three Stanley Cups in 22 NHL seasons along with an Olympic gold.
"His words went a long way."
Canada's juniors will go for a sixth consecutive gold in December at Regina and Saskatoon.
With files from the Canadian Press