Sometimes even the slightest perceived snub is all the motivation an athlete needs (see: Jordan, Michael).
Thanks to a pair of injuries that derailed the end of his 2013-14 season, Jordan Kyrou didn’t score an invite to Hockey Canada’s national under-17 development camp this past summer – and with it more time under the watchful eyes of the scouts selecting Canada’s national team rosters for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
“That was kind of disappointing because I knew I should’ve been there,” says Kyrou, a forward with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting. “I knew I had the skill and ability to be there, but it just made me work twice as hard over the summer to try and make the team. I guess it worked out.”
Indeed, it did, as Kyrou is one of two non-camp invitees to secure a spot with one of the three Team Canada rosters at this year’s tournament (Mathieu Sévigny of the QMJHL’s Drummondville Voltigeurs is an injury replacement for Canada Red). And with Sarnia hosting the event, even when he temporarily trades in his Sting sweater for a Canada White one, Kyrou will be right at home.
A broken wrist early in last season’s GTHL Minor Midget playoffs and a thigh injury at the start of the U16 OHL Gold Cup kept Kyrou off the ice – and out of sight of Team Canada decision makers.
“I didn’t get a chance to see the real Jordan Kyrou,” says Ryan Jankowski, Hockey Canada’s director of player personnel. “Our scout in Ontario liked him but it was almost an incomplete report because he missed that time at the end of the year.”
While Kyrou admits getting an invite to the under-17 camp was a goal, he was more focused this summer on getting bigger and stronger and preparing for the 2014-15 season, the 16-year-old’s first in the Ontario Hockey League.
He increased his off-ice training from three days a week to five and his on-ice training from three days to four. “I think I’ve gotten a lot fast and even a lot stronger and quicker.”
His play would suggest so.
“When (Kyrou) started his year in Sarnia, especially in the exhibition games, I started to hear a buzz and had people calling me,” says Jankowski. “What topped it off for me was seeing him play the weekend before we announced our rosters. He’s got skill, he’s got offensive creativity and he’s got a real nifty stick. He’s exactly the type of player we want to bring to the (Program of Excellence).”
One person who was in Kyrou’s corner – and Jankowski’s ear – early was Jeff Chychrun. The former NHLer’s son, Jakob, and Kyrou are Sting teammates. The elder Chychrun texted Jankowski to put in a good word about Kyrou. Jankowski followed up with Jakob and was happy with what he heard from both father and son.
“They both said he’s a good kid and that’s important for this process.” Kyrou would be coming to the tournament cold in terms of understanding how the program works, says Jankowski, but he now knew he’d be getting a player open-minded about learning more and developing his game.
“That helped me understand that there’s going to be a buy-in from Jordan, even though he missed that critical time in the summer,” says Jankowski.
Kyrou didn’t learn about the assist until later, but was happy to know his teammate had his back.
“He’s really supportive of me and I’m really thankful to have a teammate like that.”
Kyrou and Chychrun will be teammates at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge as well, with Chychrun, a defenceman, appearing in the event for the second time. Both were part of the press conference announcing the rosters. It was the first time Kyrou had ever worn a Team Canada jersey.
“That felt great,” he says, smiling. “It’s going to feel even greater playing in it.”
The fact that he would have that chance this year came as a complete surprise to him. Kyrou was in his basement when Jankowski phoned to give him the news.
“Jordan might have been one of the best calls I’ve ever had just because it was totally out of the blue for him,” says Jankowski. “He wouldn’t have expected it and his reaction showed it.”
After the initial shock – ‘Really? Really?’ Jankowski remembers him saying – the good news sunk in. “It brought the biggest smile to my face,” says Kyrou.
Although he’s lived in Sarnia for only a couple of months, the southwestern Ontario city already feels like a second home. Kyrou says there’ll be a comfort factor in playing in familiar surroundings in front of fans who know him.
They won’t be the only ones.
“Our expectation was that our 66 players were all going to have been at summer camp,” says Jankowski. “But (Kyrou) proved to us through the three to four weeks to start the season that he deserved to be here.”