Under the guidance of president and general manager Bruce Hamilton, the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets have compiled one of the most impressive records in major junior hockey over the last 15 years.
So it should come as little surprise that Hockey Canada has once again tapped into Hamilton’s knowledge base by naming him to the Program of Excellence management group for the 2017-18 season.
For the first time since his involvement with Hockey Canada, Hamilton will support and manage the U18 program, including Canada’s entry in the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
“It’ll be a unique experience working with the top group of kids at this age,” Hamilton said. “It’ll give us a good idea what our future is going to look like. More importantly, it’s the only time we have a true under 18 team put together, so it’s a key part of the process.”
As always, the U18 program is a stepping stone to the ultimate junior experience in Canada—playing for Hockey Canada’s entry at the annual IIHF U20 world championship.
“It’s a chance to let these players know how serious this is and that this is their opportunity to leave a real footprint with Hockey Canada going forward, and one day maybe playing at the world juniors,” Hamilton added.
Hamilton has been a part of Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence since 2013. He was a member of the management group for Canada’s national U20 team in 2014 at the IIHF world juniors in Malmö, Sweden, and again in 2015 when the Canadians won the gold medal at the WJC in Toronto.
Joining Hamilton on the three-man management team are Steve Staios of the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, who will oversee the U17 program, and Joël Bouchard of the QMJHL’s Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, who returns to the national U20 junior team.
“Their skill, knowledge and dedication to excellence will lead us through the year as we look to continue Canada’s tradition of excellence on the ice, and further develop skilled, committed players through our program,” said Scott Salmond, vice-president of hockey operations and national teams with Hockey Canada.
The owner, president and GM of the Rockets, Hamilton’s club won the WHL title four times in a 12-year span—2003, 2005, 2009 and 2015—and the Memorial Cup title in Kelowna in 2004.
Hamilton is currently serving his second stint as chairman of the Western Hockey League’s board of directors since 2008. He also held the position from 1998 to 2004.