Junior camp will be no vacation

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:46 AM ET

From the long grind that is the 70-game QMJHL season, through four rounds of playoffs and the Memorial Cup, to preparing for the Gatineau Olympiques' draft, then working on his newest venture .... Benoit Groulx has to be the last coach in hockey to take a vacation.

Finally, his first real break in almost a year starts Sunday.

"My girlfriend and I are going to Vegas for six days ... we're going to see Cirque Du Soleil," Groulx said with a laugh yesterday at the Westin. "Then I'm taking another week with the kids.

"My cell will be off."

He better be able to rest fast.

Groulx, the bench boss of both the Quebec League-champion Olympiques and the national team that will defend its fourth consecutive world junior title here this Christmas, met yesterday with Team Canada assistants Dave Cameron and Willie Desjardins to go over final details for a development camp at University of Ottawa, July 25-30.

On the list of 45 invitees are 67's stars Logan Couture and Tyler Cuma, as well as Olympiques sniper Paul Byron. Also attending the summer get-together will be 10 players who helped Canada claim global supremacy yet again six months ago in Pardubice, Czech Republic.

The returnees are defencemen Drew Doughty, Luke Schenn and P.K. Subban, plus forwards Zach Boychuk, Colton Gillies, Steve Stamkos, Brandon Sutter, John Tavares and Kyle Turris. Thomas Hickey, another member of the gold-medal clinching team, was invited to the summer camp but is unable to participate.

Many of the players who will congregate at Ottawa U were at Scotiabank Place last month for the NHL draft, including first-rounders Stamkos (first overall), Doughty (second), Schenn (fifth), Joshua Bailey (ninth), Cody Hodgson (10th), Tyler Myers (12th), Colten Tuebert (13th), Boychuk (14th), goalie Chet Pickard (18th), Jordan Eberle (22nd), Cuma (23rd), Greg Nemisz (25th) and Tyler Ennis (26th).

"It all depends on who is going to stay in the NHL and who is going to be back," Groulx said when asked about the nucleus of the team. "It's too early right now to talk about who will play and who will stay in pro hockey."

NO PRO JOB

Popular opinion was that Groulx would be in pro hockey himself after bringing Gatineau to the Memorial Cup three times in seven years. That's not easy to do. That's almost a Brian Kilrea-like pace.

But Groulx, 40, didn't get the offer he deserves -- nor did he even hear from Senators coach Craig Hartsburg or GM Bryan Murray.

Not that he's fretting or anything.

"It's not in the air right now for me," Groulx -- who was an assistant to Brent Sutter at the 2007 Canada-Russia Super Series and an assistant to Cameron on Canada's gold- medal-winning under-18 team at the 2004 under-18 junior World Cup -- said of graduating from the junior ranks. "That's okay. I had this opportunity, I took it and I feel very comfortable doing this job.

"It's a great honour to coach this team. When you're involved in this program, your goal is to end up being the coach of the national team. It's a privilege to be part of this event, especially in Ottawa."

There's also a lot of pressure involved for an up-and-coming coach who is expected to lead Canada to a five-peat. But Groulx isn't thinking along those lines.

"When you coach this team, you know that expectations are high," he said. "We feel that playing in Canada, it's an opportunity for us, it's a challenge. It's something we've got to prepare to face.

"When you get into coaching, you look at opportunities, you look at jobs you want to do. If you look at this job, if you look at the pressure side ... I don't think it's a good thing to do. It's an opportunity to be the coach of this team and I look forward to doing it."

Groulx said he'll feel no added responsibility to put Byron, Couture and Cuma on the squad just because of the local connections, abiding instead to the "we want to put the best team as possible on the ice" philosophy.

"They're going to have a chance like anybody else at camp," he said. "I think it's an opportunity for them to prove to us what they can do. The season, August to December, is going to be important for them also."

July's summer camp is going to be of benefit to the players as well as Groulx and his staff.

EVALUATION ONGOING

"It's important for them to show us what attitude they're going to bring to us," he said of the charges. "We know the talent is in place, but at the same time, for us coaches, it's an opportunity we have to get to know them better. I know some of the guys from Ontario, I know the guys from Quebec. But there are many of them I don't know. It's an opportunity for us to get to know everybody.

"Summer camp is an opportunity to leave a good impression to the coaches, but then what you do after is also very important. The evaluation is going to stop in December."

As far as putting his own stamp on a team previously coached to titles by Sutter and Hartsburg, Groulx isn't concerned.

"It's the national junior team," he said. "It has its philosophy and we want to keep going the same way. We want to play our style, Canadian hockey style. It's about skating, it's about hitting, it's about making plays, playing hard. This is how we've been successful. This is what we want to do."

It's going to take a lot of work, something Groulx knows a thing or two about.


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