Just a pack of prairie 'dogs

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:47 AM ET

An Internet search of Jeff Truitt's name offers up all kinds of possibilities.

A San Antonio photographer. An expert in Platinum.

A speaker at a law conference at the University of Texas.

Those are among the more interesting references. Just not a lot of them indicate he is any kind of hockey coach -- and somehow you get the impression he wouldn't have it any other way.

Today, Truitt and his Kelowna Rockets arrive in London starring in the role of the other guy.

This is Sidney Crosby's Memorial Cup. This is the great opportunity at home for this historic London Knights team. This is the legend Brian Kilrea, back for about the millionth time.

This is a Memorial Cup, with no other hockey going on, that will shatter all audience records -- a junior championship the whole country will be dialed in to.

Never mind that this somebody coach that nobody knows has the defending national champion back in the Cup for a third consecutive year. Normally that should be worth some kind of notice. Only this time, that qualifies you for character actor roles on a stage dominated by stars.

"We kind of like it this way, coming in under the radar," said Bruce Hamilton, the longtime general manager of the Rockets. "We hope all the attention goes to everybody else.

"I think our guys are kind of expecting that, too.

You know, a lot of our kids aren't just players, they're hockey fans, too. They want to see Sidney Crosby. They want to see what these London Knights are all about. They've watched the world juniors on television and seen all these stars.

"I think they're excited just to be a part of it."

Some of that is honest and some of that is a con. Kelowna won a Memorial Cup last year that many thought it had no business winning. The Rockets won the Western League championship this year when most thought otherwise. This is a team that plays ugly hockey rather neatly and quietly.

"You won't hear a lot from us," Hamilton said. "We'll be the guys in the background saying nothing."

The biggest name on the Kelowna Rockets happens to be the mascot, Rocky Raccoon. After that, it's forward Tyler Mosienko, who is best known for being the grandson of an NHL record-holder.

Quick question: Who holds the record for the fastest three goals in NHL history?

Quick answer: Bill Mosienko.

And after that, there is but one sure-flight NHL player: Defenceman Shea Weber, stolen by the Nashville Predators at No. 49 in the 2003 entry draft, the 13th defenceman selected, 40 picks after Dion Phaneuf was taken by the Calgary Flames.

Now the two are compared favourably. Probably the two best defenceman not playing in a not-playing NHL.

And maybe one day Jeff Truitt will be there. This is his first year as a head coach in junior hockey. He is 40 years young and has been kicking around the game forever. He has had a job here, a job there, none of them high-paying or high-profile. He coached in Lethbridge and in tier 2 hockey in Camrose and grew up in Rosetown, Sask., home of the junior Red Wings.

None of that has blown his cover as a virtual unknown -- a cover he hopes to maintain while the hockey world goes ga-ga over Crosby and the celebration of the Knights reaches its crescendo.

"We're just a bunch of prairie boys," Hamilton said. "I'm a prairie boy. Jeff's a prairie boy. We're a bunch of clean-cut kids. We don't have a bunch of oddballs, just a bunch of good kids, kids you'd be proud of.

"We're just coming to play. After that, who knows, we'll see what happens."


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