Hartsburg remembers stinging loss

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 1:38 PM ET

Craig Hartsburg knows what it's like to lose in Canada.

He was a member of the 1978 Canadian team at the world junior championship in Montreal.

Even with Wayne Gretzky, Canada could do no better than the bronze medal and that's simply not good enough when you pride yourself on being the best hockey nation in the world.

In fact, it took Canada six years to win the gold medal after the inception of the IIHF under-20 tournament in 1977.

Hartsburg, who will be an assistant coach with the 2006 team in Vancouver, remembers the sting of losing in front of the home crowd.

With only one player returning from the 2005 championship squad -- defenceman Cam Barker of the Medicine Hat Tigers -- a repeat won't be easy.

And in Barker's case, he wasn't even with the team for the medal round in Grand Forks, N.D., after it was discovered he had mononucleosis and was sent home.

But despite the youth and inexperience of this team, Hartsburg wasn't about to pass on the chance to be part of head coach Brent Sutter's bench staff in Vancouver.

"It's a great honour to be a part of it and we've got the best Canadian kids playing," said Hartsburg, who brought his Soo Greyhounds into the John Labatt Centre last night.

"It's easy to pick and chose your spots, but this is similar to the struggles we're having in the Sault. When I went there last year, I knew we were going to have to go through some tough times before we really got building what we want.

"There's no experience on the (junior) team, but the emotion and the passion that our kids always show is what I'm really looking forward to.

"The coaching staff is going to be a lot more hands-on in the preparation part of it and keeping the focus on what's important -- the hockey part -- and keeping the kids out of the limelight as much as we can and really keeping them thinking about what the next game is going to bring."

Canada hasn't struck gold on home turf since 1995 in Red Deer, Alta. The championship was in Winnipeg in 1999 and Halifax in 2003.

One player who likely will wear the Maple Leaf in Vancouver is London Knights forward David Bolland.

Hockey Canada will announce Monday the 32 players who'll attend the selection camp Dec. 11-16 in Vancouver, and Bolland's name is on that list.

Twenty-two players will then be picked for the team.

Hartsburg got to see Bolland at the summer camp and for two games last week with Team OHL in the Canada-Russia series. He sees Bolland as a big part of the power play.

"For him, he has to bring his game to the camp and we know the power play is an area that he's an expert. It's the other parts of the game. We're going to have to make sure he's good defensively and capable of playing some minutes because he could be a very special player for us on the power play.

"David was the last cut last year and we expect him to bring that experience with him this year to the camp anyways, and we're looking for some kids who are going to step up as leaders."

Knights forward Rob Schremp knows the pressure of playing in your country. He was with the U.S. team in Grand Forks and even though people gave the gold to Canada before the tournament began, if there was one team that could play spoiler, it was the U.S.

But the Americans soured in the semifinals against Russia.

"Obviously, in your own country you want to put up a good performance and make your fans happy and make sure your country is proud of what you've done," said Schremp, who should hear soon that he's on this U.S. team.

"We fell short of what we felt we should have accomplished and I'm sure the Canadian boys are going to feel the same way with it in their country.

"It's not that they don't have skill, but it is going to be tough to follow up on a performance like last year. It was just retarded how unbelievably talented and skilled they were and how they came together.

"It's going to be tough to follow up."


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