Kevin Underhill – Victoria News
When Victoria Royals defenseman Joe Hicketts attended the Canadian junior selection camp last December, he was admittedly anxious. This year, the gold medal veteran will bring confidence and leadership when he returns to winter camp.
The 19-year old Kamloops native will join 29 other Canadian junior hockey players at the winter selection camp held in Etobicoke, Ont. from Dec. 10 to 14. Hicketts is one of three returning players from last year’s gold medal winning team and will look to guide the younger players through camp.
“As a second year player, it’s about sharing that experience and relaying information to the younger guys,” Hicketts said.
Royals coach Dave Lowry will join Hicketts as the team’s head coach. Lowry was the assistant coach on last year’s national junior team and said Hicketts’ experience will be vital to the team.
“He is one of the few returning players that has won,” Lowry said. “His responsibility now is to make sure that everybody is aware of the challenges that lie ahead.”
Although the team won’t be announced until after camp, barring injury, Hicketts is a lock to make the team. He said any chance to wear the red and white at the World Juniors is an amazing feeling.
As of Monday, the Royals sat second in the WHL‘s B.C. division, trailing the Kelowna Rockets by three points. Lowry said balancing his coaching responsibilities between the Royals and the national team requires good time management and a strong support staff.
“I’ve been fortunate that my bosses have given me the opportunity to travel to watch other games and really dive in 100 per cent because they know that my commitment here is 100 per cent as well,” Lowry said.
For the next 30 days, the priority for Hicketts and Lowry will be keeping the world junior title in Canada. The tournament starts on Boxing Day and takes place in Helsinki, Finland.
With only three returning players coming to camp, team chemistry is an obvious hurdle. Hicketts said team culture and discipline are vital if they plan on topping the podium again.
“It’s definitely a challenge. These guys are all stars on their respective club teams,” Hicketts said. “But that’s how winning teams are built—bring the best players together and have everyone buy in.”
Hicketts is excited to get on the ice with some familiar faces and start the process.
“I’m just looking forward to seeing all the guys again and working toward building a championship team,” he said.