A more experienced Ryan Huska will be in behind the bench when Canada’s junior team takes to the ice later this year in Edmonton and Calgary.
For the second year in a row, the Kelowna Rockets bench boss will work as an assistant on the Team Canada coaching staff for the IIHF World Junior Championship.
Huska will serve under head coach Don Hay of the Vancouver Giants, while Belleville’s George Burnett and Pascal Vincent of Montreal are the other assistants coaches.
With last year’s experience at the world juniors in Buffalo under his belt, Huska expects to be better prepared for the 2012 tournament.
“I think when I went in last year everything was new, I didn’t really know anybody or a lot of what to expect,” said Huska. “But this time it’s a different ball game in regards to knowing returning players on our team, what the opposition is like, the atmosphere, and just everything about the event…I’ll have a better idea.
“With the tournament in Canada, it’s likely going to be much more intense, but that’s all part of it.”
Huska worked with Don Hay briefly behind the bench of Team WHL for the Subway Super Series two years ago.
He also played for Hay with the Kamloops Blazers back in the 1990s and has plenty of respect for the Giants’ head coach.
“It’s a great opportunity to work with him,” Huska said of Hay. “I consider him as a mentor and it’s a chance to work side by side with him. It’ll be a good experience working with George (Burnett) and Pascal (Vincent), too.”
With the tournament returning to Canada after a one-year absence the stakes and pressure will be—as is the case every year—very high.
Canada will be trying to reclaim the gold medal after settling for silver in both 2010 and 2011.
“The expectations at this level in Canada are always to win,” said Huska. “They haven’t been able to do that the last couple of years, so that adds some extra pressure. That’s the challenge for us, the players and the coaching staff, to get that gold medal back.”
As it did last year, the world junior championship will take him away from his Western Hockey League club for the better part of a month.
Huska is grateful to the Kelowna Rockets for his second tour of duty with Hockey Canada.
“I’m very thankful for the opportunity again, thankful to (Rockets GM) Bruce Hamilton for allowing it.
It’s a huge sacrifice to have a member of your staff away that long in the middle of a hockey season. I’m very appreciative and fortunate.”
Huska will travel to Edmonton in August for the Canadian junior team’s evaluation camp, then
will return to Alberta again in mid-December for the final selection camp.
The world junior hockey championship is set for Dec. 26, 2011 to Jan. 5, 2012.