When watching Team Canada play their first game at the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships on Boxing Day, keep an eye on the bench.
Quesnel’s Mitch Love will be standing there proudly with some of the finest young skaters in the country, hoping to bring back some much-coveted hardware.
He was selected to be an assistant coach for Canada’s National Junior Team under head coach Dale Hunter for the championships in the Czech Republic.
“I was never good enough a hockey player to play for the World Junior team but I guess I’m a good enough coach to be part of the coaching staff, so that’s exciting,” Love says.
“Like a lot of people in Canada, I grew up watching that tournament during 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 has had some previous experience on the international stage, winning a gold medal as assistant coach with Team Canada at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
He has also had some success as a first-year head coach of the Western Hockey League’s Saskatoon Blades, leading the team to their first playoff apperance in six years.
Like any job, Love says he applied to the role through Hockey Canada after receiving an e-mail from them.
He was able to check off a few of the boxes they were looking for an was invited down to Toronto with 11 other candidates for the coaching roles available with the World Junior and Hlinka teams.
Love says his experience as head coach with the Blades should help him in the role ahead.
“This whole business nowadays is driven by the relationship of the coach to your players,” he says.
“The constant communication that you’ve got to have with these young men in terms of really having them understand where they fit on your team and what kind of buy in is expected of them is so important in a short term international event.
“You’ve got the best-of-the-best and not everybody can be on your first line and not everyone can be your top D pairing. So I think your conversations and your relationship with your players are so important and that’s one thing I really learned being a head coach for the first time and working with the players in Saskatoon, which I hope I’ll be able to translate into that short term event which is the World Juniors.”