Hartsburg's double duty worth effort

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:25 AM ET

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds coach Craig Hartsburg has a lot on his mind.

He's trying to push his Sault team as high in the standings as they can go before the playoffs, all the while preparing for those playoffs.

But another question has nothing to do with his Greyhounds. It's about his other team -- his gold medal-winning Canadian world junior hockey team.

Will Hartsburg be back next year for another crack at a gold medal?

"I haven't thought a lot about it," said Hartsburg, before the Ontario Hockey League game at the John Labatt Centre yesterday between the Greyhounds and the London Knights. "There's been nothing talked about yet with Hockey Canada. At this point, I'm not really thinking about it much. There's lots of time yet to decide what direction I'd like to go."

That's not question avoidance, it's a statement of fact. Hartsburg, whose team had won eight of their last 10 games going into last night, has other things to deal with.

"You are away for such a long time that you really have to focus on your team when you get back," said the Stratford native. "It's a big commitment. It's not just Christmas. There's the summer part of it. There's the lead up to it. To be away from your team, your family, timewise, it's a huge commitment. I've done it two years in a row now and it's been a great experience. You couldn't ask for anything more."

It's his second year on Canada's coaching staff.

Most people focus on the commitment of the hockey players who play in the tournament. But it's a much more difficult prospect for a coach. A team may lose one or two players but when a coach is gone from his team for three weeks, that affects an entire organization.

His team has responded to his return. The Greyhounds will make the playoffs this year. They are seventh seed in the Western Conference and have made up ground on teams like Sarnia and Saginaw.

"We're in a situation where we're playing young players in key situations so as we get closer to the playoffs, we're hoping the experience they are getting now will help them later on," said Hartsburg.

Canada's coaching job is a plum one despite the work and pressure. And it must be enticing for a coach to know he'll going into a world junior tournament being able to choose from one of the best crop of young players the OHL has produced in years, players like Knights Sam Gagner, Oshawa Generals John Tavares and Michael Del Zotto, Sarnia Sting Steven Stamkos, Guelph Storm Drew Doughty and a number of others.

"Every year though there are good players," said Hartsburg. "Those kids are all Ontario kids and they great players and there going to be a big part of the team's future but we know them more because we see them all the time. But over the last few years you look at the kids who have played on that team and there are great kids from all over."

Hartsburg didn't appear to be in any hurry to put a timeframe on when he'll make a decision about whether he wants to return.

"Hockey Canada is involved in other things as well like the world championships and the under-18 tournament," said Hartsburg. "There's time."


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