(ISN) – At the 2011 Canada Winter Games, Curtis Lazar captained British Columbia to the gold medal, breaking the goal-scoring record previously shared by Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos. A year later he wore the ‘C’ for Team Pacific at the 2012 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
Being a leader – and accepting the pressure that comes with it – is something the perpetually-smiling Vernon, B.C.-raised forward welcomes. As the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship gets underway, the captain of Canada’s National Junior Team hopes to add more memories – and one more medal – to his junior career.
Can you share how you were told you were being given the ‘C’?
“Sam (Reinhart), Connor (McDavid) and myself got a text message from the coaching staff saying they wanted to meet with us. They told us that we’ve been looked upon as the leaders of this group. It’s a pretty special moment anytime you get to wear the Canadian sweater, (and) it’s an honour to have the ‘C’ on top of it. It’s incredible but it also comes with a lot of responsibility. I feel I’m up for the task.”
What was the reaction from your teammates?
“They were very happy for me. I came to (selection) camp a little late (but) they welcomed me in the group with open arms. I feel the strength we have is that unity. We need that chemistry to be successful in this tournament.”
Eight players are captains for their teams in the Canadian Hockey League. Can you talk a bit about being a leader among leaders?
“That’s what I’ve told them, regardless of whether you have a letter or not, my expectation is for everyone to be a leader. Most everyone has that experience of being a captain or assistant captain on their club teams. I just want everyone to be themselves – they’re special hockey players and they’re on this team for a reason. I’m going to need them to play their roles and have some fun with it, too. I don’t want that to get overlooked. It’s such a cool tournament and neat opportunity, especially playing on home ice.”
You’re one of seven returning players. What have you shared with your teammates coming to their first World Juniors about what it’s like playing in this event?
“We talked about (this being) a short-term competition and there’s not much room for error. A big part is sticking to your game plan and not getting overconfident because every team has the ability to steal a win. The returning players talked about not letting the little mistakes and distractions we made last year happen this time around.”
Have you given any thought to what you’ll say to the team before the first game against Slovakia on Dec. 26?
“It should be pretty self-explanatory. We’ve been amped up and pretty anxious to get going. The adrenaline is going to be pumping and the Bell Centre should be rocking with a lot of fans.”
You won a gold medal at the 2012 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament, and the Memorial Cup in 2014 with the Edmonton Oil Kings. Would winning the World Juniors put a bow on wrapping up your junior career?
“I’ve been fortunate to win most of the things you can win in junior hockey. The one thing I’m missing from my résumé is a gold medal at the World Juniors. We have a great opportunity this year.”
Why do you think the World Juniors are so big in Canada?
“It’s the best in the world in our age group. The thing that I think is the most exciting is that we’re still kids, we still make mistakes and that’s what makes the game so interesting. The fan support we’re going to get here on home soil is going to be awesome, too. We’re going to feed off that energy.”
What is your favourite World Juniors memory?
“Growing up it was a Christmas tradition to watch the World Juniors every holiday season. The two moments that (stick) out for me are Jordan Eberle’s heroics against Russia (in 2009) and Jonathan Toews being clutch in that shootout (in 2007). Those are two pretty special moments and hopefully this year we can write our own memory.”