Making Hay with Team Canada

Canada head coach Don Hay speaks to the media at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta., Dec. 30, 2011....

Canada head coach Don Hay speaks to the media at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta., Dec. 30, 2011. (IAN KUCERAK/QMI Agency)

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:32 PM ET

CALGARY - It seems fitting that Don Hay has an opportunity to make history at the Saddledome.

After all, the record-holders he's chasing are both employed there.

Hay has collected 11 victories as the head coach of Hockey Canada's junior national team, leaving him just one shy of the all-time mark shared by current Calgary Flames bench boss Brent Sutter and associate coach Craig Hartsburg.

Hay will try to make it a dozen in Tuesday's semifinal showdown at the Saddledome. If this latest instalment of Team Canada advances and wins the gold-medal game, the 57-year-old will have the record all to himself.

"He just loves to win," said Team Canada forward Brendan Gallagher, who's spent the past four seasons under Hay's direction with the Western Hockey League's Vancouver Giants. "Every hockey game he's in, whether it's exhibition or on the outdoor pond or whatever it is, he wants to win. Every game he's in, he's going to coach the same way -- he's going to coach to win."

Seems to be working.

Hay, who missed Monday's practice at WinSport Canada Athletic & Ice Complex due to the flu, led his squad to four straight round-robin victories and an automatic ticket to Tuesday's semifinal.

Along the way, he leapfrogged the likes of Dave King (10), Terry Simpson (10) and Stan Butler (9) on Hockey Canada's all-time world junior wins list.

On Tuesday night, he'll try to join Sutter and Hartsburg in top spot.

"It's something that I'm sure he's proud of," said Team Canada captain Jaden Schwartz. "He's definitely a great coach, and he's proven that over the years he's been coaching. It's definitely an honour. Hopefully, we can do that for him. That'd be pretty special.

"But I don't think anybody is surprised how well he is doing on the world stage. It'd be nice to get him that win."

The surprising part might be that Hay, whose resume also includes three Memorial Cup crowns and one-year NHL stints in Phoenix and Calgary, wasn't back behind Canada's bench sooner.

His first appearance as a world junior boss was in 1995 in Red Deer, when he won seven straight games with a squad that included future NHL stars Ed Jovanovski, Bryan McCabe and Ryan Smyth.

Hockey Canada has enlisted 13 different head coaches -- including both Sutter and Hartsburg twice -- since then.

In 2005, Sutter was the brains behind what's considered Canada's most dominant entry at the world junior tournament, a star-studded squad that included Patrice Bergeron, Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Dion Phaneuf, Mike Richards and Shea Weber and predictably rolled to gold.

Sutter didn't have the same embarrassment of riches the following year but guided a gritty group that seemed to embrace their status an underdog to a perfect record on home ice in Vancouver.

Hartsburg was the guy responsible for sending Jonathan Toews over the boards on three shootout attempts in a semifinal thriller against the U.S. in 2007. Backstopped by Carey Price, Team Canada defeated Russia in the final two days later.

Hartsburg returned in 2008 -- this time, with Steve Mason starring between the pipes -- and coached the Canucks to another gold-medal celebration.

According to Gallagher, Hay was hell-bent on making the most of his second opportunity to coach Team Canada.

"He's very competitive. I've never met anyone who wants to win more than him," Gallagher said. "At the same time, he's very knowledgeable and he's very prepared. In the summer, I'd be coming to the gym ready to work out and he'd be sitting there watching videos of prior tournaments of this event. So he was really looking forward to this."

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNGilbertson


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