Canada’s team began preparations Tuesday for the 2.0 edition of the 2022 world junior men’s hockey championship in Edmonton.
The host country starts the Aug. 9-20 championship on Aug. 10 against Latvia at Rogers Place.
The 10-country tournament will be minus Russia barred from participating by the International Ice Hockey Federation because of that country’s invasion of Ukraine.
The initial 2022 championship in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta., was called off Dec. 29 after just four days because of rising COVID-19 cases among players and officials, which forced game forfeitures.
Hockey Canada hosts this world juniors under the shadow of federal government scrutiny and a wave of public criticism for its handling of alleged sexual assaults by members of previous junior men’s teams in 2018 and 2003.
Sheldon Kennedy, a former NHL player and victims rights advocate, is among those calling for the resignation of Hockey Canada president Scott Smith and the board of directors.
Enhanced character screening for all high-performance players was among a slate of remedies Hockey Canada announced in an action plan last month.
“We have a big weight on our shoulders for sure,” said forward Mason McTavish, who was named Canada’s captain Tuesday when camp opened in Calgary.
“We have the opportunity to, not obviously clear the name, but maybe help improve and bring back … it’s Canada and the world juniors is such an awesome event for Canadians especially. We have a great opportunity to … help improve and take another step toward getting back to where we were.”
The 25 players named to the junior roster Sunday participated in a code of conduct seminar that night delivered by Hockey Canada director of sport safety Natasha Johnston. Another session on sexual violence was scheduled for Tuesday.
“It’s obviously really serious stuff,” forward Kent Johnson said. “You’re playing for the nation and all the kids at home watching. I think it’s still an honour to represent your country.”
The IIHF’s men’s under-20 event is considered a showcase of the planet’s top male junior hockey talent.
The IIHF has allowed players born in 2002 who have turned 20, to remain eligible to participate in the summer redo.
Cameron returns as Canada’s head coach in a different scenario without a selection camp and a major championship to be played midsummer after a short camp.
“A little bit weird to be honest with you,” Cameron said at the Tsuut’ina Nation’s 7 Chiefs Sportsplex. “Two good things about this for me is I don’t have to cut anybody. That’s the hardest part of this job when you have to send kids home. And the second part of it is I know the bulk of the players.”
The goaltending trio of Dylan Garand, Sebastian Cossa and Brett Brochu is back, but the roster underwent nine player changes from the December lineup.
Previous captain Kaiden Guhle and top defenceman Owen Power did not return. Neither did forward Shane Wright, the No. 4 pick in last month’s NHL draft, or Winnipeg Jets forward Cole Perfetti.
Regina Pats forward Connor Bedard, the projected No. 1 NHL draft pick in 2023, and Olympic men’s team forwards McTavish and Johnson headline Canada’s forwards in Edmonton.
“We’ve only got eight days to get ready for it, which is a little less than usual,” Bedard said. “I think everyone is coming in with the mindset of trying to win a gold medal. We’re doing all we can in practice and in the gym these first couple days to start that goal off.”
Jack Thompson, who didn’t participate in December’s selection camp because of COVID-19 quarantine, and Daemon Hunt were added to the August lineup on defence.
Tyson Foerster, Nathan Gaucher, Riley Kidney, Zack Ostapchuk, Brennan Othman, William Dufour and Joshua Roy draw in at forward for Wright, Perfetti, Xavier Bourgeault, Mavrik Bourque, Jake Neighbours, Justin Sourdif and Dylan Guenther.
Cameron wouldn’t comment on players who opted out.
“I’m just concentrating on the guys I’ve got here,” he said.
Garand is the lone player returning from the Canadian team that earned world junior silver in Edmonton in 2021.
“There’s a little more scrutiny on the tournament this year being kind of the first world juniors since the allegations and stuff,” Garand said.
“For us and our team, we’re just here to focus on hockey and ultimately win a gold medal is our goal.”