Hunt has been there
By Ian Hamilton, Leader-Post
January 5, 2010
With the gold-medal game looming, Curtis Hunt could put himself in the shoes of Canada's coaches at the world junior hockey championship.
After all, Hunt walked a mile in those shoes -- twice.
The Regina Pats head coach was an assistant with Canada's gold-medal-winning teams in 2007 and '08. As a result, Hunt was eminently qualified to discuss what was going on Monday in Saskatoon as Canada prepared for today's final against the United States.
"There's a saying I always steal from (former college football coach) Lou Holtz and it's an acronym -- WIN: What's Important Now," Hunt said before his WHL team practised at the Co-operators Centre. "If I reflect on my experience, what was important the day before was that we had a good practice, a good stretch and we ate well, but we didn't overthink it.
"We took some time to relax, enjoy each other's company and not start playing the game. There's lots of time to do that (today). What's important now is to not overthink it and burn out in the stable waiting for the race."
In 2007 in Leksand, Sweden, Canada went 4-0-0 in the round-robin before beating the U.S. 2-1 in a shootout in a semifinal. The Canadians subsequently defeated Russia 4-2 to win gold.
The following year in Pardubice, Czech Republic, Canada posted a 3-1-0 round-robin record, which included a 4-3 loss to Sweden. The Canadians downed Finland 4-2 in a quarterfinal, beat the Americans 4-1 in a semifinal, and then exacted revenge on Sweden with a 3-2 victory in the final.
"For coaches, it's about preparation," Hunt said. "Leadership starts at your coaching staff. We put together the game plan and put together the video for special teams. We talked about the scenarios and the matchups, and then reflected a little bit on the whole event.
"From a coach's perspective, you want to make sure your kids are armed with all the information they need that's relevant to the game they're going to play. That's why I feel really confident in the job we did. We were able to give them the information they needed to have success."
Hunt expected this season's coaching staff -- led by Willie Desjardins of the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers -- to have done the same for its players.
Hunt said the coaches will have broken down Canada's 5-4 shootout victory over the U.S. in a round-robin game Thursday, conjuring up ways to handle the Americans' forechecking and penalty-killing systems. Further scrutiny will have been done on the Americans' 5-2 win over the Swedes in one of Sunday's semifinals.
"Willie will have been at the game (Sunday) and the coaches would have reviewed the game immediately and addressed it with the players," Hunt said. "The coaching staff will have a real good grasp of what the Americans are going to do. It's just putting together the game plan and keeping the players balanced and on an even keel."
Two of those players -- right-winger Jordan Eberle and defenceman Colten Teubert -- play for the Pats. Hunt said he wouldn't try to contact either player in advance of today's game to offer advice, primarily because he expected them already to be prepared.
"Both of those kids are on the verge of being professionals," Hunt said. "They've been through the situation before and they're looked at as leaders in the group. They're probably playing Nintendo, having a laugh or just resting.
"It's on their minds, obviously, but they're veteran-enough guys to not allow the emotional part to bother them."
The same went for their current coach in '07 and '08. Asked if he slept well the night before the gold-medal games, Hunt replied with a smile: "As far as I remember."
"It's really a blur, to be honest with you," he added. "Everything seems to happen so fast. You just do what's necessary at that given time."
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