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StarPhoenix article (Bronco lends his talents to national squad)

June 12 2012 at 7:27 AM
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N. W. Bruin  (Login NW_Bruin_GM)

Response to Leader-Post article (Murray embraces idea of playing for Oilers)

Bronco lends his talents to national squad

By Sean Trembath, The StarPhoenix

June 11, 2012

Bronco Christian Magnus will fly to Pisek, Czech Republic this Saturday to play on Team Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championships of ball hockey.After spending almost his entire life on the ice, including four seasons in the Western Hockey League, Christian Magnus is trading in his skates for running shoes. The 20-year-old Saskatoon native will fly to Pisek, Czech Republic this Saturday to play on Team Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championships of ball hockey. Magnus’ selection for the national roster is particularly notable given that he only participated in his first ball hockey tournament less than a year ago, when Saskatoon hosted the Canadian national tournament last July.

“The under-19 Team Saskatchewan didn’t really have enough guys, so we just kind of threw together a team. There was a bunch of us that have been playing ice hockey our whole lives. It was our first time ever playing ball hockey, so it was a little bit different I guess, but we ended up actually winning bronze,” said Magnus.

Nationals is the biggest scouting stop for Ball Hockey Canada, and Magnus’ performance was enough to get him an invite to play on this year’s under-20 squad. While his WHL-ready hockey skills were obviously important to his selection, his demeanour is what separated him from the crowd.

“Saskatoon’s team was made up mostly of players from the WHL, so they’re skilled players in ice hockey, but they hadn’t quite learned the ball hockey game well,” said Steve Dockerty, the high performance director for the Canadian Ball Hockey Association’s junior teams. “You could see some of the more skilled ice hockey players getting frustrated. Christian was an individual that had the skill-set, but also maintained his composure.”

According to Dockerty, the ability to deal with frustration and not take bad retaliation penalties is key to success in international ball hockey tournaments. The referees in the eastern-European countries where the world championships are held call games in a manner that is unfamiliar to kids who have grown up playing ice hockey in North America.

“For example, I always tell the kids if you lose a faceoff in Europe, and you swear to yourself, you’ll end up in the box, often for 10 minutes, because the referee doesn’t know if you’re swearing at him or yourself. He only knows one North American word, and guess what it is,” said Dockerty.

European opponents know they can get under Canadians’ skins, and try to exploit the situation.

“They live and die on powerplays over there, so they try to get us into short-handed situations,” he said.

Magnus’ discipline has been evident throughout his WHL career with the Swift Current Broncos and Kootenay Ice. The most penalty minutes he has put up in a season is 31, which he collected over 66 games playing for both the Ice and Broncos during the 2010-11 WHL campaign.

While ball hockey is not necessarily his sport of choice, Magnus jumped at the opportunity to represent his country.

“It’s pretty huge and exciting for me just to throw on a Canada sweater, going to Europe and whatnot,” he said. This will be his first time overseas, adding extra value to the experience.

Whatever happens in the Czech Republic, Magnus hopes to play one more year in the WHL. Unfortunately, the league’s rule restricting teams to three 20-year-old players on a roster could hurt his chances.

“I’m going back to try out (in Swift Current). I would like to play there again, but with the overage situation you never really know where you’re going to end up,” said Magnus.

He’s got more pressing things to worry about for now, like bringing home a third-straight gold medal for Canada.

As with ice hockey, Canada is a powerhouse at international ball hockey tournaments. In the six under-20 World Junior Championships held biannually since the first tournament in 2000, Canada has three gold — including the most recent two — and two bronze medals.

Magnus will fly to Toronto today to join his team for a four-day mini-camp before leaving for the Czech Republic Saturday. With so little experience in the sport, he is not quite sure what to expect from his European opponents.

“Obviously they’ve probably been playing a lot more than myself. Rumour has it that they take it pretty serious over there in Europe, so I’m definitely a little nervous, but as long as I work hard it should be fine,” he said.

The World Junior Championships for ball hockey run June 18 to 23 in Pisek, Czech Republic. In addition to the under-20 division Magnus will compete in, there are under-18 and under-16 divisions. Taylor Leier, also from Saskatoon, who plays for the WHL’s Portland Winter Hawks, is part of Canada’s under-18 roster.

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