Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Denver, Patrick Wiercioch Screwed by Hockey Canada

Hockey rules in Canada. The sport is revered in a way it will likely never be in the United States, and they take it quite seriously.

The 2010 IIHF World Junior Championships are coming to Saskatchewan starting next Friday. This past weekend, top candidates for the Canadian team gathered in Regina for a tryout camp.

For many youngsters, the first real big-time hockey dream they have is the chance to help Canada win the World Juniors, a tournament that has gained significant prestige in recent years.

Coming off a stirring gold-medal win last year in Ottawa, Hockey Canada is looking to form another elite team of youngsters for this year's tournament. Among the candidates at their weekend camp were UMD freshman Dylan Olsen and Denver sophomore Patrick Wiercioch (pictured).

Both had to forgo the chance to play in Saturday's series finale in Duluth to fly to Regina for the camp. While Olsen got on the ice and was given an opportunity to impress the brass who are putting the team together, Wiercioch never saw the ice.

A knee injury Wiercioch suffered last month didn't keep him out of the lineup for long, and it didn't prevent him from practicing with the Pioneers for most of November into December.

However, Canadian officials determined that the knee wasn't good enough for Wiercioch to try out, and he was cut without actually getting a chance to make the team.

"Our medical staff had been in direct contact with their medical team over the past four to five weeks," (DU coach George) Gwozdecky said. "They were very aware of not only his injury, but how it was diagnosed and treated, and obviously the fact he had been practicing and playing. It's very surprising they would bring him up there and decide to not clear him."

A frustrated Gwozdecky added: "They have no different diagnosis than we do. I think the bottom line with them is: They had 11 or 12 defensemen, and like it or not, this is probably an easier way to whittle the group down to six or seven. We all knew Patrick is not 100 percent healthy."

As Mike Chambers points out, Wiercioch played in Friday's game against UMD, and he was never given any indication that his injury would keep him from having a realistic shot at making the Canadian team.

Let's face it: This was an awful move by Hockey Canada. There is no reason to take a kid away from his team if you're not certain you are going to let him try out. That means you either trust the doctors DU is using, or you send him for an independent opinion in Denver the week of the tryout. You don't fly him to Regina, prevent him from playing in a big game for his team, and then tell him his World Junior dream is dead.

The well-respected Gwozdecky is likely correct. This was the easy way for Canada to knock that high number of defensemen down without making any difficult decisions. If that's the case, it's all the more reason not to waste everyone's time and energy flying Wiercioch to Regina.

On the bright side for Denver, the big defenseman now gets two weeks to rest that balky knee before the Pioneers host Nebraska-Omaha Jan. 1 in the Denver Cup.

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