There’s a famous Christmas song by Andy Williams that everyone would recognize called “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year,” but I choose to associate the song with the World Junior Hockey Championship each year instead. It is consistently one of the most fascinating hockey tournaments in the world and the passion and excitement for the Canadian team takes it to another level each year. As we come closer to puck drop, it has become front of mind, especially for head coach Dave Cameron and general manager James Boyd.
Forced to Move On From Andre Tourigny
When the Ottawa 67’s re-signed four members of their staff back in late March, it was also announced that Andre Tourigny would be the head coach of Team Canada at the World Juniors as well. After coaching Team Canada at the 2021 World Juniors, there started to be some rumours that there would be an NHL opportunity available to Tourigny in the not too distant future, but the contract extension with the 67’s and commitments to return behind the bench at the 2022 World Juniors seemed to dispel those, at least for the time being.
As the month rolled by, those rumours returned, but this time with a little bit more truth behind them. The Arizona Coyotes’ search for a new head coach left them wanting something new and a fresh face, and on July 1, 2021, they made the move to hire Tourigny as their new head coach.
The hire meant that Tourigny would no longer be able to honour his contract with the 67’s and Boyd would need to search for a new coach for both the 67’s and Team Canada for the World Juniors. That search lasted a couple of months, but it eventually was announced that Cameron, formerly the head coach of the Ottawa Senators, would be taking over, a move that Tourigny was a fan of.
“Dave is one of the best humans I have ever met and he’ll bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the team. His track record speaks for itself, but it’s really Dave’s values as a person and coach that makes this a phenomenal hiring. I’m truly excited about the 67’s future under the leadership of Dave Cameron and James Boyd,” said Tourigny in a press release.
Dave Cameron the Obvious Replacement Choice
Even if making Cameron the head coach of the World Junior team took some time, he was always someone that Boyd had an interest in working with again. The two have already worked together in the past, but despite some other great candidates for the job, Cameron always stuck out to Boyd.
“There’s a period of time where I don’t know if he was aware of the opportunity or if he just wasn’t interested or if we just hadn’t approached it that way,” said Boyd. “There were other candidates that we were speaking with to make sure we were doing a thorough search and some of them were great candidates.”
“As soon as there was traction with Dave and there was genuine interest in the job, it quickly became our sentiment that this is the guy,” Boyd continued. “If we can get Dave to do this, then it’s the perfect fit. We’re happy that everything worked out.”
For Cameron to come back to the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), first and foremost, it had to be the right opportunity. He was comfortable coaching in Europe and had no plans to come back unless it was a job he just couldn’t refuse. When Boyd approached him about returning and coaching the 67’s — the time was right for Cameron to return to the OHL landscape for the first time since coaching the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors in 2010-11.
“I was at the point in my career where I was very happy in Europe and I had no real plans to come back,” said Cameron. “James and I worked together in Mississauga, so I stayed in contact with them and I knew from my conversations how well run this organization is and the class of the organization. This is an NHL-calibre organization. I like this age group. I like junior, so there was no hesitation for me to come back to junior, but it had to be the right situation.”
Cameron was also hired to replace Tourigny behind the bench of Team Canada at the World Juniors, of course. This isn’t his first time coaching on the international stage either. He has been the head coach at the World Juniors once before in 2011 when Canada won a silver medal and twice more as an assistant coach in 2009 and 2010. He is experienced in what this tournament brings, and as the hype builds, he isn’t letting it get to him.
“I love Hockey Canada and it’s a real honour to coach the World Juniors,” said Cameron. “I don’t think it’s any different in terms of the hype and importance of it. It’s the best on best in the world.”
Cameron and Boyd Share Great Relationship
Cameron and Boyd go a long way back having worked together with the Majors. After the 2003-04 season, Cameron left the team to take a job with the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League (AHL) before returning as the head coach and general manager once again for the 2007-08 season. In the time he was gone from the team, Boyd was hired and served as the assistant coach in the season Cameron returned. Starting in the 2008-09 season, Boyd was promoted to assistant general manager alongside his assistant coaching duties.
The pair would serve in their roles with Boyd assisting Cameron in both coaching duties and managing duties up until the end of the 2010-11 season when Cameron took an assistant coaching job with the Ottawa Senators that eventually became a head coaching job for him. Boyd was then promoted to head coach and general manager, a role he kept until the 2015-16 season with the rebranded Mississauga Steelheads.
“Dave and I have been close friends since the time we worked together,” said Boyd. “We stayed in close contact and probably helping us as much was that Dave was really close with Andre Tourigny. Both worked with the World Juniors in the past and then their time together with the Ottawa Senators. Dave was always up to speed on what was happening in Ottawa (with the 67’s) and we’d talk a few times a year about the systems that we have in place. Dave was familiar with the organization so there wasn’t much of a sales pitch.”
A great working relationship is always good, especially when the two people complement one another as Cameron and Boyd do. Even with a great relationship, however, it can only get you so far. If you can’t get the job done at this level, you won’t be around for too long. It isn’t just the friends aspect that makes Cameron the right fit, but also his coaching ability that is well known around the OHL and the entire Canadian Hockey League.
“It was an interesting time,” said Boyd. “Resuming play after the pandemic, Dave was at a point in his life where all of a sudden it became intriguing, and again, he knew a lot about it. I’ve always enjoyed working with Dave so the feeling is mutual. We have a very good understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses so it’s exciting to be back together. We’re fortunate to get him, he’s one heck of a coach. Any time you get a coach with NHL experience and international experience, it’s going to be a great benefit to your organization.”
Team Canada on the Ice
Much has already been said about the list of players invited to Team Canada Selection Camp later this month with the omissions of Brandt Clarke, Brennan Othmann, and Zachary L’Heureux. Despite some of the younger players that many would have wanted to see at selection camp not being there, there is still plenty of talent on the Canadian roster before cuts are made, including Connor Bedard, Shane Wright, and Cole Perfetti. If the style of hockey the 67’s play is any indication of what Cameron wants out of his players, it’s defence first and physicality.
“It’s the way all the good teams play,” said Cameron. “They play fast, you have to execute, you have to compete and we have to be able to coach shift after shift after shift because the uniqueness of the tournament is that it’s sudden death games. When you go to sudden death games with two equal teams you’ve gotta give yourself a chance by bringing your ‘A’ game and you just gotta hope we do better than last year’s team. They were textbook in the last game and they just fell a little bit short and that’s just how the tournament goes.”
For Boyd and company, picking a roster for the selection camp wouldn’t have been easy and while he doesn’t have experience as the general manager at the World Juniors, he has seen some of these players in the past as they have come through the ranks.
“Working with the U17’s in the past, I get a sense of how Hockey Canada works and what the expectations are,” said Boyd. “I’m familiar with some of the players that we will be looking at to select for the national junior team and what they have been exposed to with the U17. It’s quite different than being a manager of the 67’s, but it’s super exciting. Any time you work with the best of the best in a high-pressure environment, that’s a dream job for someone like me, and it has been that.”
The pressure that comes with the World Juniors for a country like Canada is immense. There’s an expectation that you will win gold every single year and anything else is considered to be a failure. If there’s one person who can tolerate those expectations, it’s the stoic Cameron who doesn’t allow those outside opinions to change how he does things.
“No, that will take place when we get there,” said Cameron in reference to allowing himself to think about what coaching Team Canada will be like. “I’ve been there before, so I know what to expect.”
Heading to the Big Stage
Now that we are in the month of December, it won’t be long until we see the puck drop from Edmonton and Red Deer for the 2022 World Juniors. As always, there are massive expectations for the Canadians, but Cameron and Boyd seem ready to take those on. When we get going, it will be the players on the ice that make the difference, but before we get there, Boyd and Cameron will have to pick the right names and build the right roster to fight for gold in early January.
All Your THW 2022 World Junior Championship Coverage
Currently a journalism student at Algonquin College in Ottawa, I have always had a passion for the OHL and the Ottawa 67’s in particular. I have been attending games since I was young, and being involved with sports has always been a dream of mine. Sports writing fits perfectly into that. You can also find me talking and writing other sports (primarily Canadian football) on my website 13thmansports.ca!