Hockey Canada wanted an experienced coaching staff at the helm for the 2019
IIHF World Junior Championship. Naturally, Jim Hulton was asked to be a
part of it.
The 49-year-old Kingston, Ont., product boasts an impressive
hockey-coaching résumé. From the OHL to the OUA, NHL, USHL and now the
QMJHL, Hulton has criss-crossed North America for the last 20 years,
gaining valuable knowledge from every stop.
He has spent the last three seasons as head coach of the Charlottetown
Islanders, returning to the CHL after a decade away and leading the team to
consecutive appearances in the QMJHL semifinals, the first time the
20-year-old franchise has been that deep into the postseason.
Hulton has also made a handful of international appearances – he won
back-to-back gold medals with Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team,
first as an assistant in 2001, then as head coach a year later, and was
behind the bench at a pair of World Juniors in 2004 and 2005.
In 2004, Canada brought home silver after a heartbreaking 4-3 loss to the
United States before it rebounded to run the table the following year,
capped by a dominant 6-1 win over Russia in the gold medal game.
“In ’04, we had a young team, I think we had 12 under-age players,”
reminisces Hulton. “We had a fantasy ride through the first part of the
tournament and didn’t meet any adversity. Unfortunately adversity hit in
the third period of the gold medal game – I think everyone remembers the
infamous Marc-André Fleury shot off Braydon Coburn. But it was a great
experience as far as being an introduction into the Hockey Canada program
and it led into ’05: the perfect storm.
“I don’t think there’s any question that ’05 team is the best I’ve been a
part of, it’s the top team I think any of us have been involved in. When
you look back now at the number of Stanley Cups, gold medals and hockey
championships won, it was an incredibly special group.”
Sidney Crosby. Patrice Bergeron. Jeff Carter. Ryan Getzlaf. Andrew Ladd.
Corey Perry. Mike Richards. Cam Barker. Braydon Cobourn. Dion Phaneuf.
Brent Seabrook. Shea Weber.
Seven players from that 2005 National Junior Team were on Canada’s 2010 or
2014 Olympic gold medal-winning entries, and nine have won at least one
“Being a part of that team in any way, shape or form was a big privilege
and it’s something I’ll always remember,” Hulton says. “I’ll also never
forget the support we got as well. The tournament was in North Dakota, so
it felt like we were home. Droves of people came down from Manitoba for it,
it felt like we were playing in Canada.”
With the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship back on Canadian ice in
Vancouver and Victoria, B.C., support will again be unwavering for Team
Canada. As for the result, Hulton is working on that.
He joins fellow assistant coaches Marc-André Dumont and Brent Kisio, and
Team Canada bench boss Tim Hunter, in Kamloops, B.C., this week for the
2018 Sport Chek World Junior Showcase, with 39 players gathered for the
first step on the road to the World Juniors.
In Hulton’s eyes, the entire complexion of how Team Canada plays has
changed a great deal since 2005. He’s excited to help build a team suited
for today’s game.
“In ’05, there was still a bit of a Canadian distinction in terms of grit
and physical play; we all remember Dion Phaneuf’s contributions there and
his big hits on Ovechkin,” he says. “The game now is a lot faster, it’s
more skill-based, there’s less physical play due to rule changes.
“How it translates is it changes how you pick a team now. It’s also about
getting to know your players more now and worry less about how they fit
into a system and more about making them part of the process.”
Hunter has never crossed paths with Hulton (he’s meeting him in person for
the first time in Kamloops), but the hockey world is small and he’s heard
great things about his new assistant.
“Jim’s been through the World Junior program a couple of times and had
success with both a silver and gold,” said Hunter. “That’s great experience
that Brent, Marc and I can lean on. It’s interesting to hear what it is was
like back then to see what we can use from those experiences this time
“He’s a modern coach, and he’s progressive in the way he coaches, so I gain
from that he plays the puck possession up-tempo game and wants skill.
That’s what we’re all about here at Hockey Canada.”
As much as the World Junior Showcase will be used to evaluate players, time
will also be spent bonding between coaches. Hunter said he wants to
understand the challenges his coaches face, as well as their wants and
needs, so the group can gel as quickly as possible.
“Our synergy on the bench is really important. The players read off us, so
if we’re calm and we’re in control, they’re going to be the same. It’s
really important we’re delivering a message they’re buying into.”