Lowry answers Canada's call

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

For Dave Lowry, it seems like a golden opportunity.

The former Calgary Flames captain and current Hitmen head coach will be behind the bench for Canada's under-18 men's national team at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia in mid-August.

Team Canada is the defending champion at the annual summer showdown and has won gold eight times in the past decade.

"There is always pressure when you're coaching Team Canada and that's what makes it so exciting," Lowry said. "You're expected to win. As a coach, that's what you want."

Winning is what Lowry was up to all winter.

The 44-year-old's stock has skyrocketed since he took the reins from Hitmen GM Kelly Kisio last fall and guided the Western Hockey League club to a franchise-best 122-point campaign.

Despite only four years of coaching experience and just one season as the main man, there's been speculation Lowry might be a candidate for a promotion to the pro ranks.

There's a school of thought he'd be a good fit for the Flames organization, but Lowry insists he's focused on a second season as the Hitmen's top dog.

"You know what? I'm very happy where I am right now. I've got a great boss in Kelly (Kisio) to work for and I've got a great opportunity," Lowry said. "I'm just fortunate that I was able to have a team that was successful. It's no different for (coaches). The message that we try to send our guys was that if you work as a group and you have a team-first mindset, the personal success will follow. I'm just fortunate I was able to be associated with such a good group."

Hockey Canada unveiled the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka coaching staff yesterday at Father David Bauer Arena. Lowry will be joined behind the bench by Mark Holick of the Kootenay Ice and Chris DePiero of the Ontario Hockey League's Oshawa Generals. Former NHL all-star Ron Tugnutt will tag along as a goaltending consultant.

"As a player, you always had dreams and aspirations of representing your country," Lowry said. "I wasn't fortunate enough to do it as a player, but to be able to do it now as a coach, it's exciting."

The 2009 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament will be a showcase of the top 1992-born puck prospects on the planet. Steven Stamkos led Team Canada two years ago. Sidney Crosby was the star attraction in 2003.

Lowry will select his squad at an evaluation camp in early August. The core of the team will be comprised of players that also wore the Maple Leaf at the IIHF World Under-18 Hockey Championship in April, where Canada finished fourth.

They'll have plenty of experience behind the bench.

Lowry skated in 1,195 NHL tilts over 19 seasons, but his stats in a suit and tie are even more impressive.

As a rookie head coach, Lowry guided the Hitmen to a 59-9-3-1 record this season.


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