Best cup ever, Rockets coach says

ERIC BENDER -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:46 AM ET

The 2005 Memorial Cup sports the highest level of hockey among the last three in the eyes of Kelowna Rockets head coach Jeff Truitt.

It's the third-straight year the Rockets have been in Canada's major junior hockey championship. Truitt was an associate coach for four seasons until the Rockets' previous coach, Marc Habscheid, left to coach Canada's national senior team this season.

"The overall talent is better here and the high-end talent is so good on the teams. It's a cut above," said Truitt. "There's a lot of parity among the teams. . . .

"London is deep and dynamic, well-positioned and skilled. Rimouski has the best player in the world right now -- the best amateur -- and he makes everybody around him play better. . . . Ottawa has good quality and legendary coach Brian Kilrea."

His own team has had "tremendous leaders" over the years. But the current crop of players is the culmination of five years of intensive recruiting and working new talent into the formulas that the veterans employ, Truitt said.

Despite of a solid if defensive team, the Rockets were facing elimination yesterday. They sat 0-2 in the round-robin and confronted the high-flying Rimouski Oceanic and their star Sidney Crosby last night.

"We had a really good meeting," Truitt said after losing the second game to the London Knights. "There were no blues going on and there's spring in their step today at practice. No matter what happens, we're proud of them."

He was counting on the "character" of his team to pull out a win and claim some hope of wriggling through to the final. No team has ever won the tournament after losing the first two games.

"It's a short-term tournament and you have to respond," he said.

Truitt has built on the reputation of the late junior and NHL coach Roger Neilson, who was known as Captain Video for his use of videotape to analyze the play of his own team and of opponent.

Truitt helped develop a computer-based game video for analytical purposes and his expertise resulted in an appointment as video coach for Team Canada at the 2004 world junior championship.


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