As many Canadians look forward to tuning into TSN for the start of the World Junior Hockey tournament on Boxing Day, U SPORTS plays a key role in helping Team Canada prepare for the tournament through their All-Star game. At the front of the U SPORTS all-star team bench is Queen’s Head Coach Brett Gibson.
The U SPORTS All-Star game is played Dec. 12 and 13 at the selection camp for the World Juniors Canadian Hockey team. The game aids in the selection process for Canada’s best Junior players as they face off against Canada’s top collegiate players.
Queen’s Men’s Hockey Head Coach Brett Gibson was announced as Head Coach of the U SPORTS all-star team on Oct. 30.
“It’s a great honour. Anytime you get an opportunity to represent the best U SPORTS has to offer, you’re a little bit humbled, but [it] comes with a big responsibility in this game, because our job is to prepare the Canadian World Junior team to go over and win a gold medal at Christmas time. I take that responsibility very seriously,” Gibson said in an interview with The Journal.
Gibson has worked with Hockey Canada for events in the past. He was on the coaching staff for Team Canada at the 2021 FISU Winter Universiade, and was Canadian Head Coach at the 2017 Winter Universiade, while also serving as Head Coach for Team Canada in the 2019 IIHF U18 World Championships.
With his prior experience, preparation is a surmountable challenge.
“This is my fourth event working this, out of the eight they’ve hosted. I know the Hockey Canada people well and it’s just having that familiarity going into it of what to expect [and] what I know I have to do ahead of time to prepare for the event,” Gibson said. “It just makes it a little more at ease and a little more comfortable going into it.”
The team has yet to set the final roster of players for the upcoming tournament. Gibson is working towards narrowing down the roster to 40 players that will eventually make up a 22-person team with the help of the rest of the U SPORTS all-star coaching staff.
“I have great players on my program that aren’t going to make the team unfortunately, because it’s a U SPORTS-wide event. What I’ve done there has been as transparent as possible with my own players and the challenge is huge,” he said. “You can name the roster and still have three weeks to play and you got to make sure your rosters are approved for injuries.”
In terms of the players looking to make the team, there is a major challenge for them as well.
“You’re playing the best Junior-aged players in the country, vying for a spot, and that will bring some sleepless nights leading up to the event for sure,” Gibson said.
Gibson, who’s spoken about the importance of coach-player relationships in previous interviews with The Journal, sees this as one of the many exciting opportunities that come with coaching this U SPORTS team.
“[The] opportunity to meet 22 men who really represent U SPORTS in hockey and getting to see them off the ice, I think you get to know them a little better and see how great a man these guys are,” he said.
Gibson feels excited for playing against the World Junior team to be showcased internationally over the winter break.
“Even at my age, you still get excited for Christmas time when you turn on the TV on Boxing Day. To be able to prepare them and to be able to see them ahead of the event and see them trying out for this team and the sacrifices they have to make—we’re a small part of this,” Gibson said.
“I feel when you do these events, you have a small piece of pride when they do medal at the event, that you are a little piece of the part of the process.”
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