Through a connection that dates back to the late 1990s, Powell River Regals manager Tod English is taking part in the 2018/2019 World Junior Championship as a team host.
The role with Team Denmark is a familiar one for English, who served in the same capacity for Norway’s national men’s team at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. His involvement is a direct result of being a part of the hockey community in Powell River, according to English.
“It started in 1999 when we brought Team Norway here to play Team Canada, when [Regals forward] Rick McLaren was invited to play with our national men’s team for the game,” said English. “After that, it all boils down to winning the Allan Cup with the Regals in 2000.”
The 1999/2000 hockey season was the last time Hockey Canada ran a full-time men’s program.
“That's why Canada didn't have a team for international competitions the next year,” said English.
As a result, Hockey Canada decided to send the defending Allan Cup champions to the Nagano Cup in Japan in 2001. It was the first time since the 1960s that a senior team travelled as Team Canada. English was a player/coach at the time.
“That is where we really got exposed to the national program,” said English. “We kept in contact with Team Canada manager Denis Hainault over the next few years and asked him about getting a team to train in Powell River. That’s how we ended up getting Norway’s team here for a week in 2005 before the last world junior tournament in Vancouver.”
An exhibition game between Norway and Team USA was held at Hap Parker Arena prior to the start of that tournament.
Regals won their third Allan Cup national title in 2006 and represented Canada for a second time at the Polesie Cup in Belarus, where they faced the host team as well as Latvia’s national team.
After that tournament, Hainault first brought the possibility of being a team host at the Olympics to English’s attention.
“He contacted me again in 2009 to ask if I wanted the job, which set that opportunity in motion,” said English. “This all came about because of the success of Powell River hockey.”
English is one of 20 hosts at this year’s tournament; each of the 10 teams has two.
English said the primary role for a team host is making sure logistics are taken care of, including anything to do with communication between the team, host committee, Hockey Canada, and the International Ice Hockey Federation, and knowing the rules.
“We’re there if somebody gets suspended or hurt, or if there is a problem at a game, and to make sure the meals are on time, people are picked up at the airport and the schedule is being taken care of,” said English. “You really work with the general manager to make sure everything runs smoothly.”
The 2018/2019 World Junior Hockey Championship begins on Boxing Day, but teams are already playing exhibition games. Denmark’s first official opponent is Canada on December 26, which puts English’s allegiance into question.
“It's funny, the same thing happened at the Olympics; the first game for Norway was against Canada,” said English. “I knew there was no way we were going to win but you're rooting for the underdog, for sure. If it was a knock-out game or the final it would be a little bit of a different story.”
Although his role is the same, English said he expects a different atmosphere than what he experienced in 2010.
“The nice part about this is you actually stay with the team; at the Olympics they didn't provide accommodation because the athletes stayed in the village,” said English. “Entire facilities were on lockdown at the Olympics. At the world juniors there’s not as much security.”
Attending an international hockey event is an incredible opportunity, whether as a player, coach or team host, added English.
“Being on the world stage is pretty exciting, and this is the highest level of U20 hockey there is,” he said. “It’s great having a team like Denmark because it is their second or third time recently in the top division, so they are pretty appreciative to be here.”
The tournament concludes with the gold medal game on Saturday, January 5.