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UPDATED: Abandonment of regional teams means less exposure for Atlantic Canada's male U17 hockey players

Hockey Canada
Hockey Canada - Contributed

Back in 2015, when Hockey Canada opted to scrap its regional approach to icing teams for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in favour of three squads from coast to coast, it’s believed the train of thought stemmed from the idea of tougher competition made for better player development.

Maybe, but in terms of exposure, young hockey players and coaches from Newfoundland and Labrador and other parts of Atlantic Canada have been left holding their hockey bags.

Hockey Canada released its 66-player roster Wednesday for three teams — Canada Black, Red and White — for the 2019 World U17 Hockey Challenge Nov. 2-9 in Medicine Hat, Alta. and Swift Current, Sask., and there’s only one youngster from this province slated to play.

Mount Pearl’s Zach Dean, a rookie with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Gatineau Olympiques, made the cut. The five-foot-11, 160-pound Dean was Gatineau’s first pick, fourth overall, in the June QMJHL draft, and has four goals in 11 games.

In July, 112 players were invited to participate in Canada’s national under-17 development camp, and introduced to the Hockey Canada Program of Excellence.

Players chosen to represent Canada at the World U17 were selected by Hockey Canada head scout Brad McEwen, and Martin Mondou, Rob Simpson, Jason Smart, Darren Sutherland, Shaun Sutter and Darrell Woodley from the U17 management group.

At least the news isn’t all bad. Last year, there wasn’t a single Newfoundlander playing in the World U17. In 2017, Alex Newhook and Brett Budgell of St. John’s, along with Dawson Mercer of Bay Roberts, took part. Travis Crickard of St. John’s was on one of the team’s coaching staff.

There were no players in either of the 2016 or 2015 U17 tournaments. Nathan Noel and Adam Holwell of St. John’s, and Andrew Picco of Marystown skated in the 2014 tournament for Team Atlantic.

The 2013 World U17 Hockey Challenge had a bumper crop of Newfoundlanders in the event, with seven players and a coach on the Team Atlantic squad. Players were Noel, Cody Donaghey, Kyle Tibbo, Liam Hynes, Nathan Yetman, Lucas Batt and Clark Bishop and coach Scott Gordon.

In previous U17 Challenge tournaments, local coaches Steve Bishop and Steve Power were also part of Team Atlantic staffs, and Newfoundlanders were also part of equipment and training staffs.

This province can only hope to reach that level again.


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