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Rockets ' GM in Sweden for Christmas
Bruce Hamilton has watched 11 players from his own WHL team play at past world junior hockey championships.
He also witnessed his son, Curtis, wear red and white at the 2011 tournament in Buffalo.
But never has the president and GM of the Kelowna Rockets been more invested in Canada's fortunes at the IIHF World Junior Championship than he is this year.
Hamilton has been a key member of Hockey Canada's management team, as the national junior squad prepares for the start of the 2014 WJC on Boxing Day in Malmo, Sweden.
Hamilton, along with former NHL and national team goaltender Sean Burke, and head scout Ryan Jankowski have helped assemble a roster they hope will bring an abrupt end to Canada's four-year gold-medal drought at the championship.
This week in Etobicoke, Ont., the Canadian team, led by head coach Brent Sutter, will choose its final 22-man roster. Unlike past years where the final selection camp featured anywhere from 32 to 40 players, the list of candidates this winter sits at just 25—meaning only three players will be released.
Hamilton said there were two main objectives in mind when it came to streamlining the selection process.
"When I was approached about being part of this, one of my goals was to reduce the number of players we brought in," said Hamilton. "If you get too many, you know a bunch of these players aren't going make it anyway, so why put them through that.
"Also, we figure the quicker we get the numbers down and shorten up the tryout process, the better off we'll be," he continued. "The coaches can get to work sooner with a smaller group, and be more efficient in getting the players ready in such a short time frame."
In choosing Canada's roster, Hamilton said the skill and talent of each individual player wasn't the only criteria.
"The point I've tried to make is that it's not an all-star team," he said. "We picked a team that we feel has got six to nine real skilled guys up front, and three or four character players. The guys on defense will bring a little of everything, too. Our team is going to have to play a strong team-game to be successful."
As chairman of the WHL's board of governors for a decade and the Rockets GM for 22 seasons, Hamilton has experienced the hockey business from many different perspectives.
Getting a chance to work closely with Hockey Canada for the first time was a chance he couldn't pass up.
"I think it was a great opportunity, a chance to do something big," said Hamilton. "A lot of us (WHL GMs) don't get a chance to move up and do things like, there just isn't much movement. It's a bigger stage and a real good challenge. Sometimes you can fall into a bit of a rut, so this is refreshing, something new and exciting to be part of. Hopefully we can bring home the gold."
Following this week's selection camp, Hamilton and Team Canada will leave Sunday for Copenhagen, Denmark—35 minutes from Malmo—where they will be based until Dec. 23.
After three exhibition games, Canada opens the WJC Dec. 26 against Germany.
Meanwhile, defenceman Damon Severson is hoping to become the 12th Kelowna Rockets player to make Team Canada. The 19-year-old from Melville, Sask., is among eight blue liners at this week's selection camp, with seven to make the final team.
Rockets Shots…The Rockets continue their Eastern Division swing Friday in Brandon and Saturday in Regina. Following a visit to the Prince Albert Raiders on Sunday, Kelowna will wrap up its six-game tour of the Prairies on Tuesday night in Saskatoon…Ryan Olsen scored twice in the third period as the Rockets defeated the Swift Current Broncos 4-2 on Tuesday in the first game of the trip…The WHL has nominated Rockets' veteran Jordon Cooke for the Vaughn CHL Goaltender of the Week award. The 20-year-old from Leduc, Alta., posted a 2-0 record in two starts last week, allowing four goals on 59 shots for a 1.96 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage in that span. The 5-foot-10, 177-pound netminder is in his fourth and final season with the Rockets.