CALGARY—There will be tears. There will be anger. There will be disappointment.
Don Hay, coach of the Vancouver Giants and a two-time Team Canada world junior coach, doesn’t envy Spott’s position.
“You see tears. You see disappointment. You see anger. You see all the things that go with human emotions,” said Hay, who coached the entry last year and in 1995. “You obviously feel for that young man, going through all those different feelings and then (having to) face the media. He’s got to compose himself fairly quickly before he goes out and speaks.
Those who don’t make the roster will be whisked off to the airport for flights back to their respective teams. Few of the hopefuls have ever been cut by any team before.
“It sucked,” he said. “It’s a terrible experience. I got cut and I didn’t fulfil my dream.”
Spott is putting his own mark on how things are done. For one thing, the cuts are coming in the evening, not the morning. For years, the deed was done via 6 a.m. phone call.
“It’s not the most enjoyable thing in the world,” said defenceman Jesse Blacker, now with the Toronto Marlies, who was cut from the 2011 team. “You can’t really sleep. They called me at 6 o’clock to let me know that I had been cut, that I wasn’t making the team. It’s disappointing.”
Blacker doesn’t think the timing will leave players any less nervous, though.
“They’re still going to be nervous in camp throughout the day,” said Blacker. “The main goal is to play throughout the day without the nerves. Go out and show them what you’ve got, do what you can do. Don’t leave yourself doubting that you gave it all you could.”
“I got away from my game last time,” said Murphy. “I was trying to prove to everyone how my defensive game has evolved and how well I could play defensively and I got away from my offensive side, which is why I got invited.”
Thursday’s cuts, the final ones, will be the toughest.
“It’s always hard to make those final cuts,” said Hay. “Every kid grows up watching the world juniors and they want to be involved in it. For some, it’s the last opportunity to make the team. It’s a little more tough to handle. As a coach you have to feel really comfortable that you’re making the right decision.
“As long as you feel you’re making the right decision, it means it’s right for the team.”
While the spotlight is often on the offensive stars, Canada’s coaches are working with ghost rosters — identifying players who can hit, are good in the room and are sound defensively.
“We don’t just pick the leading scorers or the most offensively gifted players,” said Devils coach Pete DeBoer, twice an assistant with the Canadian team. “The players they bring to camp, the separation is so small. Your heart really bleeds for those kids because you know they’re great players, and what’s separating them from the guys that are staying is a thread.”
As bad as it is for individual players, the pressure on the coaches is intense.
“You don’t have the luxury of a long training camp,” DeBoer said. “You’re prone to a lot of mistakes. They are tough decisions. They’re second-guessed by everybody. You have to win in order to justify them.”
DeBoer had a hand in cutting long-time NHLers Brenden Morrow and Daniel Cleary from the ’98 team. Both were highly touted first-round picks. Cleary had been playing for the Chicago Blackhawks. Canada went on to finish eighth, ending a streak of five gold medals.
“Looking back, it probably wasn’t the right decision,” said DeBoer. “I can remember Dan Cleary when we cut him being angry, and probably rightfully so.”
Brad Ross, now with the Marlies, said he was nervous all camp in 2012 and was among the final cuts: “It was kind of like a ‘sick to your stomach’ feeling.”
But he got over it.
Many players who have missed out say they’ve used the snub as motivation.
“To be included with all these highly touted players, you’ve got to take positives from something like that,” said Blacker. “You’re not going to be the best player on every team every year. You take some positives.
“I got right back to playing. There’s no point in sulking. There’s nothing to be disappointed about or to be angry about. I didn’t want to sulk and make things worse and feel sorry for myself. (It’s) almost: ‘Prove them wrong. Get back to playing again.’
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