Team Canada was down 3-1 halfway through the third period in the World Juniors gold-medal game Sunday, Jan. 5 before making a thrilling comeback, capped off with the game-winning goal scored by Akil Thomas to make it 4-3 with less than four minutes left in regulation time.
This gold medal accomplishment is just the latest of many for Canada’s assistant coach Mitch Love, a Quesnel native who is no stranger to success and whose resumé only continues to improve.
Love began his hockey career at the sprightly age of 15, making two appearances with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League (WHL) during the 1999 season.
One year later, Love made his rookie season debut for the Warriors. The defenceman would play in 51 games that season, recording five goals, four assists and 97 penalty minutes.
In his third year in the WHL, the now-18-year old Love found himself playing for the Swift Current Broncos. An established blue-liner with a reputation for keeping opposing teams in line, his opponents certainly took notice of him when he stepped on the ice. While Love would tally only 17 points on the season, he would rack up a league-leading 327 penalty minutes.
Love would then be picked up by the Everett Silvertips, an expansion team in the WHL, for their inaugural season in 2003. This is where Love would truly come into his own, finding his role as a leader in the locker room and on the ice. Love would cement his legacy in Everett lore, as he helped lead the team to the Western Conference Finals, where he would score the winning goal in game seven of the series against the Kelowna Rockets.
While the Silvertips would not go on to win Ed Chynoweth Trophy that year, the incredible play of the team and Love’s unwavering grit and leadership became s legacy with the team’s fans.
Love would play one more season in Everett, serving as captain. This would be his last in the WHL before taking the next step in his hockey journey. Love would finish his WHL career with 320 games played, 33 goals, 66 assists and a whopping 901 penalty minutes.
Love would spend the next six seasons playing in the American Hockey League, where he would suit up for Lowell, Albany, Lake Erie, Houston and Peoria before a double hip surgery would end his playing career in 2011.
However, Love was not interested in stepping away from the game. The same year of his retirement, Love was hired as the assistant coach for his former team, the Everett Silvertips. Love would coach the Silvertips for seven seasons, helping lead them to three U.S. Division Titles and one trip to the Conference Finals. This was only the second appearance at the Finals in the team’s history, Love having proudly been present for both, once on the ice as a player and now on the bench as a coach.
The Everett Silvertips would prove to play a pivotal role in Love’s development, not only as a player, but as a coach as well. During his tenure with the team, Love’s skill and value behind the bench did not go unnoticed. He was selected to be the assistant coach for Team Canada at the World Under-17 Challenge in 2015 and 2016, winning gold at the former.
After seven seasons as the assistant coach, Love would once again leave Everett to make the next jump in his career, as he accepted the job of head coach with the Saskatoon Blades for the 2018-19 season.
Before heading to Saskatoon, Love would don the mantle of assistant coach once more, this time for Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 team. The team would win gold at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, adding yet another accomplishment to Love’s already stellar resumé.
In an interview with the Observer after Love was announced as the assistant coach for Canada’s National Junior Team in 2019, he said this of the opportunity:
“Like a lot of people in Canada, I grew up watching that tournament during the Christmas holidays with family and friends, and I’m just honoured to get the opportunity to try and bring a gold medal back to Canada.”
Love and his team certainly did make good on that opportunity. As the assistant coach and his team make the heroes’ journey back to Canada from the Czech Republic, their necks sore from the weight of gold hanging around them, one can only wonder what Mitch Love will accomplish next.