Canadian hockey players like play around Christmas and New Years because it usually means competing in a major tournament.
While the World Junior Hockey tourney draws a lot of attention across this country (see Canada's roster here), the World Under-17 Challenge is a big deal for those players including the seven Newfoundlanders on Team Atlantic who will head to Quebec just after Christmas.
For Team Atlantic’s Clark Bishop of St. John’s it’s all about the opportunity to compete against other teams across Canada, the United States and Europe.
“I’m really excited about it,” said Bishop, “especially because there’s seven of us (Newfoundlanders) on the team.”
The others from this province are Cody Donaghey and Nathan Noel of St. John’s, Lucas Batt of Lewisporte, Liam Hynes of Ferryland, Kyle Tibbo of Conception Bay South and Nathan Yetman of Mount Pearl.
“It gives me the opportunity to play with my friends from back home,” added Bishop, who said he wouldn’t mind having a couple of wingers from home play on his line.
The World Under-17 Challenge tournament is set for Dec. 29 to Jan. 4, 2013 in Victoriaville and Drummondville, Que.
Team Atlantic’s opener is Dec. 29 against the host province. In their remaining preliminary round games, Bishop and his mates then faces the United States on Dec. 30, Slovakia on New Year’s Eve and Ontario New Year’s Day.
Bishop said he’s never played against national age-group teams from outside of Canada before and he’s looking forward to the “new experience.”
However, the team he’s most excited to play against is Quebec because the team’s goaltender is Alex Bureau who also tends net for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, the club Bishop plays for in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“We’ve been talking about it already,” Bishop says with a chuckle.
Bishop isn’t the first member of his family to be a part of Team Atlantic.
His father, Steve, was an assistant coach on the 2000 Team Atlantic that won the squad’s first ever game in the tournament, a victory against Germany.
So has he been offered any fatherly advice?
“Yeah, he just told me it’s a big tournament and play your own game,” said Bishop.
Bishop, who was coached by his dad in bantam minor hockey, said his father added that it’s “a really fun tournament, so enjoy it.”
The Team Atlantic players will come together Dec. 26 in Montreal and will practise the following day and then play an exhibition game Dec. 28 against Finland.
The tournament will follow the same format as previous years, with five Canadian entries (Atlantic, Ontario, Pacific, Quebec and West) being joined by five international teams, (Slovakia, Finland, United States, Russia and Sweden) with two groups of five teams.
The top two teams from both groups will advance to the semifinals, while the remaining three teams from both groups will cross over for the playoff round.
Team Atlantic will be the decided underdog going into the tournament, but that doesn’t bother Bishop one bit.
“We’ve got a really good team and a good group of guys,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to play hard and get something out of it.”
Bishop became the third Newfoundlander to go third overall in the QMJHL midget draft when the Screaming Eagles scooped up the 16-year-old forward at the league's annual lottery in Quebec City in June.
He was one of the St. John’s Privateers major midget team’s top players last season with 21 goals and 49 points in 33 games.
In the meantime, the 5-11, 173 pound centreman was recently moved from the third line to the second line with the Screaming Eagles when a couple of his teammates went down with injuries.
Bishop said he’s getting “plenty” of ice time with Cape Breton and continues to adjust to the pace of the QMJHL.
“It’s a little bit quicker and the older guys are stronger.”