December 24, 2006
Hartsburg on the hot seatMike Bell of Sun Media sits down with Canada's world junior coach
By MIKE BELL
Q: How exactly did you get the job of the coach of Team Canada?
Everybody applies and then you go through the interview process ... And once they ask if you want the job it's certainly exciting.
Q: Were you the frontrunner going in?
Oh I don't know. (Laughs.) You'd have to ask somebody else that question.
Q: Everyone says this is a no-win situation for a coach - you're expected to win and if you don't win it's obviously the coach's fault. Do you feel that?
(Laughs.) Well, I don't really worry about that. This is a big challenge and I think any coach loves challenges. It's certainly an honour to be part of this and we know the responsibility that goes with that honour and I'm willing to accept that.
Q: Is there added pressure following the success of back-to-back gold coach Brent Sutter?
I don't know about that. I certainly have a great deal of respect for following Brent. I was with him last year (as one of the team's assistant coaches). But I don't know about any more. Every year is a new year. This is a different group of players, it's a different circumstance going to Europe. So there's pressure all the time in this -- I don't know if there's any more.
Q: What's your philosophy of coaching this team?
My philosophy, first of all, is we need to get every player on the same page. We have to be a team. We want to style a game that will be very important but the biggest thing is everybody, everybody sacrifices and plays for the team ... The biggest thing that has to happen is that we have to get to trust each other and build that bond that they know they're all on the same page that they can play as a group rather than looking around and thinking, 'What's he going to do?' We have a lot of work to do here very quickly.
Q: Do you think you have a similar coaching philosophy to Sutter's?
I think so. I think we believe the game should be played the same way as we did last year. We were all on that page. We know how hard you have to play to win and compete and work and play as a group and sacrifice. The details of being a good team are very important.
Q: Has he given you any advice or have you asked for any advice?
I talked to him over the course of the (camp). We talked about some certain things and different players and some things like that. As far as advice, every coach, you've got to trust your instincts, you've got to trust who you are and go forward. But certainly I've talked to Brent lots.
Q: As well as your current tenure in the OHL coaching the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, you've also coached in the NHL (with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Anaheim Mighty Ducks). Is there a different way of dealing with the kids at this level as opposed to players in the NHL?
Oh, certainly. Yeah. There are different challenges, different problems. The good thing about the young players like this is they're all wanting to get to another level in their careers. This thing here, this world junior tournament, they all know the importance of it to our country. And their focus and willingness to compete for our country is impressive.
Q: Is it beneficial for you and the players that the tournament is overseas this year, not under a great spotlight and therefore the pressure may be less?
It's hard to say. I saw the help we got last year from the fans. It was a big help, a huge help to that team last year in Vancouver. So, I don't know. It will be a different challenge and I think we're excited about the challenge.
Q: Why do you think it's not as big in Europe as it is in Canada? Why have we gone nuts for it?
I don't know why, to tell you the truth. In Europe, I don't know that. In Canada, it's because it's our boys. It's our boys that are playing for the world championship.
Q: You played in the world juniors (Hartsburg was named the top defenceman of the 1978 tournament). What was that like?
It was a long time ago but certainly a very, very exciting moment for me. I remember it as a big part of my career. We didn't win but I remember looking back on the experience and it's something I've never forgotten. It was in '78 in Montreal and I think we ended up in third. We had a really good team -- (Wayne) Gretzky was on the team and Bobby Smith. Just about every guy on the team went on to have a pretty good NHL career.