International Ice Hockey Federation

Duchene looks to be a leader

Duchene looks to be a leader

Canadian wants to add to gold medal haul at Worlds

Published 04.05.2016 01:23 GMT+3 | Author Chris Jurewicz
Duchene looks to be a leader
Canadian forward Matt Duchene with the trophy after the gold-medal win at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. Photo: Richard Wolowicz / HHOF-IIHF Images
It’s tough to refer to a player in the mid-20s a veteran. But forward Matt Duchene is quickly putting together a resume that might well be worthy of the term.

He’s got gold medals at the 2008 U18 World Championship, 2014 Winter Olympics and 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. This week, Duchene will throw on the Team Canada jersey for the fifth time at an IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship and 10th time overall, the latter number also including under-17 world challenge, U18 events, the 2014 Olympics, and the Spengler Cup.

Fact is, the kid with the insane hands (spend an afternoon watching some Duchene highlights on YouTube; you won’t be disappointed) has grown up. Heading into the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Duchene is excited to get another shot at gold.

“The best part about it is representing your country and getting to wear your country colours. All of us grew up watching NHL hockey and we have our favourite teams but when all those players from all over get together and play for the red and white, that’s just as important and just as amazing to watch,” says Duchene, who recently completed his seventh season with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche. “It has always been a huge honour for me to pull on that jersey. And I’ve had a lot of winning experiences with Team Canada and I’m hoping to get another one here in about a month or so.”

That winning includes the 2015 Worlds, in which Duchene and Canada ran the table with a perfect 10-0 record – including a 6-1 win over Russia in the final – en route to the gold medal, Canada’s first at the Worlds since 2007. Duchene finished fifth in scoring with four goals and eight assists.

With all of that international experience under his belt, Duchene relishes the chance to take on a leadership role at this year’s Worlds. Canada’s roster – while not yet complete – is a young one, with Duchene the fourth-oldest forward. Canada’s forwards include youngsters like Connor McDavid, Sam Reinhart and Max Domi, who are 19, 20 and 21 years old, respectively.

Canada’s defence also includes some players of that vintage, guys like Morgan Rielly, Cody Ceci, Ben Hutton and Ryan Murray.

“I’d love to have a (leadership) role on this team,” says Duchene. “I’ve played in the Olympics, this will be my fifth world championships, I’ve got experience with Team Canada. I know what it’s all about. Billy Peters (Canada’s head coach for the 2016 Worlds) was our head coach for under-18s at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial back in 2008, so I’ve got familiarity with him. He was also our assistant coach last year.

“There are a lot of kids who haven’t been there before and haven’t experienced (the Worlds) yet. Hopefully I’m a guy they can look to to know what to expect. There’s other guys like that on the team and, even though we’re young, we do have some good experience.”

Duchene knows that the IIHF Worlds is an experience like no other. Take, for instance, the length of the tournament, which opens on 6th May and runs through 22nd May. Many Canadian kids aren’t used to long tournaments like the World Championship, which sees teams play seven games (eight, if you want to include a pre-competition game) before the quarter-finals even begin. The gold-medal winning team will play 10 games to get to the finish line.

When you factor in travel (Duchene and his teammates will left North America on 29 April), Canada’s players could be away from home for more than three weeks.

“The biggest key in that tournament, when you’re playing those teams that you’re expected to beat and you know you should beat, you have to go out and play the way it takes to beat any team in the tournament,” says Duchene, who mentions 10-1 and 10-0 wins over Austria and Germany, respectively, at the 2015 event as proof that Canada was on its game.

“It’s important to stay in the moment. It is a long tournament. You get stir-crazy at times, there’s not a lot going on, you’re in a hotel, there’s only so much you can do at certain times. The biggest thing is to try and stay together as a group, try to have fun together, and try and make that extra time go by a little quicker. It can be long and you want to keep your focus and your excitement the whole time you’re there. That’s definitely a challenge and that’s something we achieved last year, we were together as a group all the time. We had a ton of fun the entire time and I think that reflected on the ice.”

Duchene is also excited to play before Russian hockey fans. This will be his third time competing in Russia.

“I expect great fans. I played in Russia before, obviously at the Olympics and also at the under-18 2008 Worlds,” says Duchene. “The passion the Russians have for hockey is so great. I expect nothing but great hockey, great fans and I’ve heard nothing but good things about the two cities we’re playing in. It will be one of the better places you can play worlds and it’s going to be a big deal for everybody.”

 

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