For the 111 young players selected, Canada’s National Under 17 Development camp is just the first step to a dream come true. Players are selected from all over the country, from the Yukon to Newfoundland, and each is determined to prove their mettle in front of world-class coaches, trainers, health professionals, and—of course—their peers.
Most of the players have impressive hockey credentials, drafted into Major Junior leagues and fresh from competing in national championship tournaments, but for the camp organizers, none of that matters once they step into the Hall of Champions at the Markin MacPhail Centre.
Here, players are equal, expected to work hard to develop their skills to the next level, and most importantly, represent Canada. Some of these athletes will move on to represent their country as Team Canada, and the excitement and focus is palpable. Regardless of their previous achievements, they are here to work hard and prove they have what it takes to play for the Hockey Canada crest.
Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney gave the players important pieces of wisdom from his own illustrious career, stressing that the athletes are here as part the Program of Excellence, not the Program of Perfection. The camp is a development opportunity, a place to make mistakes and learn from them to become a better player. He also underlined that attitude is a choice to be made every day. Players here have a springboard to launch them to the international stage, but it’s ultimately up to them to carve their way.
Another concept presented was The Canadian Way, a moniker for the hard work and grit Canadian hockey players are known for, and the players are taking it to heart. When asked what The Canadian Way meant to them, participants explained it was working hard for your team, not just yourself, and digging in as hard as possible to lead Team Canada to more gold.
The program is working. Canada holds the title for most medals won in hockey in the entire world. The Canadian Way is perspiration and inspiration, and everyone is on board.
The NOHA is proud to have two phenomenal athletes selected for the camp in Camaryn Baber and Payton Vescio, from Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay, Ontario, respectively. Both were chosen in the OHL Priority Selection, with Baber selected by the Saginaw Spirit, and Vescio by his hometown team, the North Bay Battalion.
The week is set up to be challenging, grueling, and most of all rewarding for the athletes present as they have the chance to elevate their game to the world stage. Baber and Vescio are providing a goal for other hockey players in smaller towns, proving that merit and determination go a long way in this game. Together they’re paving the way for more players from Northern Ontario working their way toward the ultimate goal of playing for Team Canada, and truly showcasing what it means to play The Canadian Way.