A hockey player from Cochrane will have the chance to don the Maple Leaf for the first time this summer at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Tyrel Bauer, a 17-year-old defenseman for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League (WHL), is among the 44 players invited to Hockey Canada’s U18 summer selection camp.
“Any time you have the opportunity to represent your country, that’s a pretty big honour,” he said. “There are going to be some really good players there. It’ll be competitive – high-level competition – but it’ll be fun and a great learning experience, nonetheless.”
The tryout camp for Team Canada, which runs July 26 to 30 at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary, will feature the nation’s most talented U18 hockey players – including four goaltenders, 14 defensemen and 26 forwards.
Bauer admitted he’s not sure what to expect from the experience, but said he’s ready for a competitive, professional atmosphere.
“At the end of the day, you just have to come ready to work and compete for a spot,” he said. “Me, personally, I’m just going to play my style of game. I’m a bit of a heavier, physical player who takes pride in his own end and is very reliable and consistent. I’m not afraid to go to the dirty areas.”
The Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, the premier international hockey tournament for U18 national teams, hosts squads representing Canada, Russia, the United States and other hockey powerhouses.
“Every player brings something unique to the table – that’s why we were selected for this camp,” Bauer said. “In order for a short-term competition team like this to be successful, you need to have team buy-in. I’ll bring whatever I have and whatever they want me to give.”
Having recently completed a solid rookie campaign in the WHL, the Cochranite will be well-prepared for the camp.
Though the 2018-19 season saw the Thunderbird’s scrape its way into the WHL playoffs with an eighth-place finish in the Western Conference, Bauer’s first year in the Emerald City was, individually, a success – he played 70 games on the blue line for Seattle, garnering two goals and 15 points.
“There was a lot to learn, early on – you’re playing against aspiring professionals, people drafted and signed to the NHL or people who will be signed and drafted to the NHL,” he said. “It’s a big learning curve, coming out of midget. And that’s just the hockey side of things. There’s the social aspect of moving away and being on your own. I have great billets that helped me through that and a great coaching staff that is very supportive.”
The Hlinka-Gretzky Cup runs Aug. 5 to 10, and Canada’s preliminary-round games will be against the Czech Republic, Finland and Switzerland.
Historically, Canada has dominated the tournament – the team has won gold 22 times in the past 28 years, including last year when the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup was co-hosted in Edmonton and Red Deer.
Despite the high expectations associated with representing Canada, Bauer rejected the idea the opportunity comes with added pressure.
“Legacies like that are always lingering, and the reporters and statisticians are always going to have that in mind,” he said. “Our country has a really talented group of players and a great program to help develop them. We’ll just go out there and do our best. Whatever happens, happens.”