SUDBURY, Ont. – For Timmins Rock head coach Corey Beer, the opportunity to represent his team and the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League for a second straight year as an assistant coach at the World Junior A Challenge this December in Dawson Creek, B.C., is something he truly relishes.
Prior to that though, Beer and the rest of the Canada East staff, which includes J.J. Johnson of the Powassan Voodoos, who was named the squads’ equipment manager, will be in Cornwall, Ont., this week to take part in the three-day selection and identification camp Aug. 7-9 at Benson Centre.
This three-day event will feature 44 participants, including five from the NOJHL, who will all be looking to eventually earn a spot on the final Canada East roster that will compete at the 2019 WJAC, Dec. 7-15 at the Encana Events Centre in Dawson Creek.
Taking some time out of his schedule prior to the Canada East camp, Beer offered some views and insight on the WJAC, being part of Team Canada East once again as well as preparing for the upcoming season in Timmins in this NOJHL Q&A.
NOJHL: Give us your thoughts on being named to the Canada East staff for another year.
COREY BEER: Being named to be part of the Canada East staff for the second year in a row is such a tremendous honour. I worked with head coach Marty Dagenais when I was a guest coach two years ago and since then he has guided his Ottawa Jr. Senators (CCHL) to back-to-back national championship appearances. Being able to work with him is something I’m very much looking forward to. Having someone like Mark Grady running the hockey operations gives us a proven winner and someone with a great track record in junior hockey. Can’t wait to work along side Greg Leland and Dan Sauve as assistants as well. Hopefully it gives us the right recipe to bring home a gold medal.
NOJHL: What are one of two things you learned from last year’s WJAC in Bonnyville, Alta.?
CB: The biggest takeaways from last years WJAC was how fast the overall event was in terms of high-end speed on the ice and how quick plays can happen. It was incredible to be a part of. Seeing our players compete at the highest level was something to be seen. The second would be, not so much at the WJAC itself, but about a month ago at the NHL Draft and seeing the likes of Vasily Podkolzin (Team Russia) going 10th overall, Alex Newhook (Canada West) 16th and Ryan Johnson (Team USA) 31st all going in the first round. Then seeing a total of 33 players that competed at the World Junior A Challenge come off the board. Knowing that you’re at an event where so much future NHL talent is on display is pretty special.
NOJHL: Is there anything from your WJAC experiences that stood out to you or you feel will help as you prepare for your third season in Timmins?
CB: I believe there was lots of things I brought back to our team that we looked to implement in the second half of last season and then carrying into this year. I think the biggest was placing big expectations on our guys in Timmins and treating them just like the guys at the WJAC. We want players that strive to play there so its best for our guys to be treated that way.
NOJHL: How will it be working with coaches from other leagues in the CJHL as you as a staff prepare for the World Jr. A Challenge?
CB: Knowing a few of the guys on staff and knowing how detail oriented they are, it’s a great blend for me to work with them as I put the same emphasis on my game planning as well. I think we have some great hockey people assembled on this staff and it’s very exciting to get started with it.
NOJHL: What benefits do you feel having the Canada East camp in Cornwall in August, instead of past years when it was held just prior to the WJAC, will offer?
CB: I think the August camp offers an early look at some of the high-end prospects across eastern Canada. While play through the season dictates who will get those final invites in December, seeing the best-on-best in early August gives our staff a good idea on who could be some early candidates will be.
NOJHL: Last season the NOJHL East was as tight a divisional race in league history, with four teams having 33 wins and only six points separated first place through fifth. What does that say to you about the competitiveness and parity in the league?
CB: I think the way the East played out last year was as competitive of hockey you could ask for heading into the playoffs. It was some of the best hockey I’ve been a part of and I truly believe it was a great growing process for our young team last year down the stretch. Its great to see that kind of parity throughout the league as it makes all players better and makes our league that much more attractive a place to play.
NOJHL: What traits and skills do you look for in players as you evaluate them as a staff in helping formulate your rosters both with Canada East as well as with Rock as you head into the 2019-20 season.
CB: I think the game has changed a lot, even in the past five years, in terms of how much emphasis is placed on skill and speed. There is still that compete and physicality that needs to be there for teams. The new breed of power forward isn’t just that big strong player. He needs to be able to create offense, play special teams and add pace to his game to support those high-end skilled guys. Defencemen now need to be mobile and able to jump in the rush. The days of dump and chase hockey are gone and possession is everything. It’s exciting to see young players evolving that way.