Kingston to host 'great games'
Former National Hockey League player Wendel Clark, middle, was in Kingston on Thursday to promote two coming World Junior pre-competition games in Kingston on Dec 21 and 23. With him are children taking part in a Learn to skate program, from left, Dylan Vandusen, 9, and Cassey Stretch, 9 with Cynthia Crampton of RBC (Ian MacAlpine/The Whig-Standard)
By Doug Graham,
Thursday, November 13, 2014
Wendel Clark, the former Toronto Maples Leafs great, knows a thing or two about the world junior hockey stage, too.
Clark, when he was a junior with the Saskatoon Blades, played for Canada's gold medal-winning team in the 1985 championship.
He remembers the excitement of the competition and realizing for the first time that other countries had talented juniors as well.
Clark said that is the type of thing fans are going to notice at two world junior tournament preliminary games that will be played in December at the Rogers K-Rock Centre.
It was announced Thursday that through the RBC Road to the World Juniors pre-competition, Kingston will be the headquarters for the United States and Germany national teams.
The U.S., with highly rated prospect Jack Eichel, will play Germany on Dec. 21. Sweden, which will be headquartered in Ottawa, will come in to play the U.S. on Dec. 23.
"I am excited for Kingston. You are getting a couple of great games. It should be very exciting here in December," said Clark, who is a spokesman for RBC through its kids pledge and learn-to-skate programs.
The junior teams will be using the Kingston games to prepare for the world junior championship, which is being hosted by Montreal and Toronto over the Christmas holidays.
Clark recalled his world junior time in 1985 for the way it shaped his National Hockey League career. He went to Team Canada's training camp in Belleville as an offensive defenceman from the Blades.
On the final day of cuts, Clark was called in to a meeting with general manager Sherry Bassin and head coach Terry Simpson.
"They said 'if you play forward, you can make the world junior team.' Think of that. (In) your draft year you switch from defence and started to play forward. That was the day that I became a forward, during the world junior," said Clark, who remembers the names of players who didn't make it through that camp, future NHLers such as Patrick Roy, Gary Roberts and Todd Gill.
"When the elite come in, there is a lot of competition for all the positions," Clark said.
Now the European teams, of course, come into the world junior championship with players who are also elite prospects for the NHL.
"As a fan, just to watch these teams play it is exciting to see the different versions of our game," Clark said.
"I remember we beat Sweden in the round-robin, but if you were watching them in practice, you were saying 'I can't believe the skill these guys have.' "
After Thursday morning's media event at the RBC main branch on lower Princess Street, Clark was off to Napanee to attend a similar event.
Napanee will be hosting teams from Finland and the Czech Republic. They will play on Dec. 19 at the Strathcona Paper Centre.
Three other Ontario Hockey League cities -- Peterborough, Oshawa and Ottawa -- are hosting teams.
Russia and Switzerland are in Oshawa, Slovakia is in Peterborough, and Sweden and Denmark are in Ottawa.
Ticket sales for the two games at the Rogers K-Rock Centre are being handled by the Kingston Frontenacs business department.
Justin Chenier, executive director of business operations for the Frontenacs, said the two-game ticket packages range from $40 to $50.
In 2009, when the K-Rock Centre was the site for games between the United States and Russia, and Slovakia and the U.S., the one-price package was $54 for the two games.
Chenier said the games in 2009 drew around 10,000.