Call it a proving ground. Call it a chance to leave a lasting impression. Just don’t call it an All-Star game.
(ISN) – When the puck drops to open the 2014 SUBWAY® Super Series on Monday night in Saskatoon, fans will get the chance to see a collection of some of the best talent in the Western Hockey League take to the ice to battle for national pride versus a travelling Russian squad.
While international bragging rights are certainly on the line, much more is at stake than simply being able to stick it to Canada’s historic hockey archrival or show off your hotdogging abilities in a light-hearted skills competition. The opportunity to don the Team WHL sweater is also an opportunity to make a case to wear another jersey over the Christmas break: The red & white of Team Canada.
“The games are important for us to get a good look at all the players in the CHL at a little bit higher level of competition,” said Ryan Jankowski, head scout of Canada’s Men’s national teams for Hockey Canada. “You get the best players from each League together to play a Russian team that, over the last few years, has been very good.
“It’s a good test for the players, and a good chance for us to see who raises their game in an environment that’s similar to what they’d expect at the World Junior tournament,” he said.
19-year-old Winnipeg, MB, product Madison Bowey has established himself as one of the WHL’s top defencemen. Having attended Hockey Canada’s summer camp in August, the Kelowna Rockets’ captain is clearly already on the radar as a possible inclusion on the roster for the 2015 national junior team. Still, with the Super Series being played out right before the December selection camp, Bowey knows a strong performance for Team WHL can leave strong impressions at the right time.
“I know both games are going to be very important for (Hockey Canada) to get a good look at guys before that camp in December,” said Bowey, who is preparing for his second go-around with Team WHL after playing in last year’s event.
Bowey, of course, isn’t the only one looking to lay it all on the line. He’s fully aware that all of his team mates as well as those players on the Russian side are also looking to make their case for a World Junior spot, therefore, he expects nothing less than the highest of intensity levels for the games.
“From playing last year, I know how important these games are, and how prepared you have to be,” said the Washington Capitals’ prospect. “To make that team, you have to prove you are a solid defenceman and that you are capable of going up against other countries’ top players.
“These games are going to be very competitive,” he said.
Bowey is one of 11 players on Team WHL to have played in last year’s event. Of those 11 players, only Prince Albert’s Josh Morrissey, Kootenay’s Sam Reinhart and Portland’s Nicolas Petan also went on to play for Canada in the 2014 World Junior Championships.
For the newcomers to Team WHL, while they may not have the experience of having previously played in the series, they are acutely aware of the opportunity presented to them this year. Brandon Wheat Kings’ team mates Jayce Hawryluk and John Quenneville have the luxury of not only taking in their first SUBWAY® Super Series together, but also getting to play one of the games in front of a home crowd in Brandon.
Though both are only 18, Hawryluk and Quenneville plan on showing Hockey Canada management that they have what it takes to wear the maple leaf come Christmas.
“I watched a lot of last year’s games, and have played against Russia before at the Under-18 level, so I have a good idea of what to expect,” said Hawryluk, a Florida Panthers prospect. “But, a lot of this is going to be new to me.”
For Hawryluk, the key thing to focus on is not trying to do anything different than what he does on the ice on any given night with the Wheat Kings. Quenneville echoes that sentiment, knowing that the reason both were invited in the first place is because of the games they already play.
“I’m always going to try to play my best every night, and I’m thinking about just playing my game and being myself,” said Quenneville, a first-round pick of the New Jersey Devils in the 2014 NHL Draft.
As younger players on the team, Quenneville and Hawryluk know that the eyes of Team Canada management might not rest on them as often as some of the other players on Team WHL. Quenneville says it’s best to not think about it too much, anyway. Rather, his focus will be on taking in the moment and enjoying the experience.
“(The national junior team) is such a hard team to make, and there are so many great players in the mix,” he said. “It’s going to be really exciting for me just to play on this team with all the great players, so I’m going to try and enjoy it as much as I can.”
For Bowey, this is his final year of eligibility for the national junior team. Even though the pressure on him to make that lasting impression may be greater than it was last year, he still wants to enjoy the experience of suiting up with many of the WHL’s best.
“The cool part of the Super Series is that you get the chance to play with a lot of the guys you usually play against every night, and you get to know them a little better,” said Bowey. “To get the chance to line up with these guys is always fun, and I expect it to be a great couple of games.”
While the Keystone Centre box office is closed on Sunday, it will reopen on Monday morning and again Tuesday afternoon as Canadians observe Remembrance Day. Fans can also order by phone at (204) 726-3555 and online at keystonecentre.com As of Saturday, close to 3,700 tickets had been sold for Tuesday’s SUBWAY SUPER SERIES game.
2014 SUBWAY® Super Series Schedule:
Game 1 – Monday, November 10 at Saskatoon, SK
Game 2 – Tuesday, November 11 at Brandon, MB
Game 3 – Thursday, November 13 at Peterborough, ON
Game 4 – Monday, November 17 at Kingston, ON
Game 5 – Tuesday, November 18 at Bathurst, NB
Game 6 – Thursday, November 20 at Rimouski, QC