Sutter returns to bench

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:30 AM ET

Brent Sutter is following in some huge footsteps. Luckily for him, they're his own.

The Red Deer Rebels boss announced yesterday he will be back behind the bench this December when Team Canada attempts to defend its world junior gold medal.

Vancouver, Kelowna and Kamloops will host the tourney.

Sutter guided what has been called Canada's greatest world junior team to an undefeated run through the 2005 tourney.

There can't possibly be room for improvement. Can there?

"I've never looked at it that way," Sutter said. "It's a new team, a new year, a new challenge, a new place we're playing in.

"It's no different than when we won the Mem Cup that year (2001) and everyone said it would be impossible to (duplicate the success).

"We had a bunch of new players but we got to the WHL finals and were almost able to accomplish that again."

The team's assistant coaches, Craig Hartsburg (OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) and Clement Jodoin (QMJHL's Lewiston Maineiacs), were also announced yesterday.

Sutter and Hartsburg won't need any introductions.

Hartsburg coached the Chicago Blackhawks when Sutter played in the Windy City. The pair also pulled on the Maple Leaf to win the 1987 Canada Cup.

Sutter may be the only holdover from the gold-medal squad as only two players -- Rimouski's Sidney Crosby and Medicine Hat's Cam Barker -- are eligible to return and it's likely neither will.

"You could possibly have 22 new faces," Sutter said.

"We won't have the experience we did last year with 12 or 13 returning players but a lot of players have played at the international level before. You have a new coaching staff, new staff personnel, a totally different package of players."

It's also a different type of challenge awaiting Sutter.

Last holiday season, he was attempting to end Canada's unacceptable seven-year gold-medal drought.

That goal was achieved in spectacular fashion as the Canucks pounded their opponents 32-5 in the round robin and capped their dominating performance with a 6-1 dismantling of the Russians in the final.

Now he and his players will be dealing with the pressure of playing in front of a home crowd that takes this tournament far more seriously than any other country on the planet.

"With it being in your own backyard, there's always pressure," Sutter said of trying to become the first host team to win gold since Finland did it at Helsinki in 1998.

"We'll make sure we handle the distractions that come along with it being in your own country. But I'll tell you, last year in North Dakota, it could have been in our country. It was huge."

Canada's last gold on home soil was in 1995 at, coincidently, the Red Deer Centrium.

It took Sutter some time before he decided to sign up for a second straight year with the junior nats.

The man who wears all the hats with the Rebels wanted to make sure his junior club would be able to deal with his absence again. He had a lot of questions but he didn't have to look far to get the answers.

"When I talked to one of (the Rebels) -- my own boy, Brandon -- I asked him what he thought if dad took this on again and he thought it was pretty cool. He said 'we're going to be a young team and I think we'd all want you to be there.'

"When he said that, it told me right there that the right decision was to do this."


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