TORONTO, Ont. – Hockey Canada, in collaboration with the Canadian Hockey League, announced Wednesday a number of changes to the Hockey Canada Program of Excellence, including the naming of a management group, a head scout and significant changes to the under-17 program.
Over the course of the past few months, Hockey Canada, under the leadership of president and CEO Bob Nicholson and COO Scott Smith, did a full overview of the Program of Excellence, which led to the changes and structure being announced Wednesday.
The management group will oversee hockey operations for Hockey Canada's men's Program of Excellence and will be comprised of Joel Bouchard of the QMJHL's Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, Phoenix Coyotes assistant general manager and goaltending coach Sean Burke, Bruce Hamilton of the WHL's Kelowna Rockets and Mark Hunter of the OHL's London Knights.
Bouchard, 39, has been the president and general manager of the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada for the past two seasons after serving as an assistant coach with the team for the previous three years. The Montreal, Que., native played 15 professional seasons, including parts of 11 seasons in the National Hockey League with eight teams. Bouchard represented Canada three times internationally as a player, at the IIHF World Junior Championship in 1993 and 1994 and the 1997 IIHF World Championship, winning a gold medal each time.
Burke, 46, is a veteran of 17 NHL seasons with nine teams and is currently the assistant to the general manager and goaltender coach of the Phoenix Coyotes. Burke has represented Canada internationally on numerous occasions, beginning with a silver medal with Canada's National Junior Team at the 1986 IIHF World Junior Championship. Burke also played for Canada at the 1992 Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, France, winning a silver medal. He won the Canada Cup in 1991 and gold medals at the IIHF World Championship in 1997 and 2003, when he was also named the tournament's top goaltender and to the world championship all-star team.
Hamilton, 55, is the owner, president and general manager of the Kelowna Rockets, a franchise he started in Tacoma, Wash., in 1991. Hamilton has led the Rockets to four Memorial Cups, winning in 2004 as the host team. Hamilton, originally from Saskatoon, Sask., is the WHL's chairman of the board, a post he has held since 2008 after previously holding the position from 1998 to 2004.
Hunter, 50, just completed his 13th season as owner, vice-president and general manager of the London Knights. Hunter has helped guide the Knights to three Memorial Cups, winning in 2005, a season in which the Knights set 13 CHL team records. Prior to his time in London, Hunter was head coach of the OHL's Sarnia Sting for five seasons. The native of Petrolia, Ont., played 12 NHL seasons with five teams, winning the Stanley Cup in 1989 with the Calgary Flames.
In addition to the management group, Hockey Canada also announced that Ryan Jankowski has been named head scout of the men's Program of Excellence, replacing Kevin Prendergast.
Jankowski, 38, has spent the last three seasons as an amateur scout with the Montreal Canadiens after working five seasons as the assistant general manager with the New York Islanders. The native of Calgary, Alta., also served as chief European scout for the Islanders from 2003 to 2006. Jankowski previously worked for Hockey Canada from 1996 to 2003 in a variety of roles, including helping Canada's National Women's Team win gold at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games as the team's video manager. In 1993, he was Canada's assistant equipment manager at the IIHF World Junior Championship in Gavle, Sweden, winning a gold medal. As head scout of Hockey Canada's men's Program of Excellence, Jankowski will be responsible for all player evaluation and recruitment for Canada's National Junior Team and National Men's Under-18 Team development and selection camps, as well as evaluations with the under-17 program.
Hockey Canada also announced significant changes over the next two seasons to the under-17 program. In 2014-15, the under-17 program will include a first ever national under-17 camp, and will go from five regional teams to three national teams at the 2015 World Under-17 Challenge. In preparation of these changes, Hockey Canada will be hiring a scouting staff for the under-17 program over the coming months.