In his fourth season as head coach of the Western Hockey League’s Victoria Royals, Dave Lowry developed his coaching chops in Calgary. He worked as an assistant and head coach with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen and as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Calgary Flames. As a gritty, hardworking player, Lowry helped lead the Flames to the 2004 Stanley Cup final, where they lost a heart-breaking seven-game series to the Tampa Bay Lightning. In 1996, Lowry also advanced to the Cup final with the Florida Panthers – a Cinderella squad that featured crazed Panther fans throwing plastic rats on the ice to celebrate the team's surprising success. (A tradition inspired by Lowry's fellow forward Scott Mellanby, who used his hockey stick to kill a rat inside the Panthers dingy dressing room and promptly scored two goals using the same stick. Presto! The "Rat Trick" was born. Lowry didn't score a ton of "Rat Tricks" or Hat Tricks" during his NHL days, but he did suit up for 1,084 games in a career that spanned 19 seasons. Lowry, whose son Adam currently plays for the Winnipeg Jets, served as an assistant coach on Canada's gold medal-winning World Junior squad last year. Now, he inherits the head coaching role and before departing for Finland to try and defend the title, "Hockey Now" caught up with Lowry for a quick "Q and A" session at the team’s selection camp in Toronto.
Hockey Now: "What does it mean to you to coach Canada's World Junior team?"
Dave Lowry: "I'm extremely humbled. Coaches are no different than the players. You put in a lot of hours of hard work hoping to get the chance to represent your country and, just like the players, it's a dream come true when it happens. Everybody wants to be a part of the national program and it's an outstanding opportunity."
HN: "Getting an opportunity to be part of Team Canada is one thing, but actually winning the gold medal takes it to a completely different level. So what was it like being part of last year's championship effort?"
DL: "Any time you win a championship, it's obviously the most satisfying and gratifying experience you can have. Last year was very special. We had an extremely talented team that knew it had the ability to reach its goal. When you have a group of young men that knows what its capable of and ends up getting the job done, it's definitely a great feeling.
HN: "There was an incredible atmosphere at last year's tournament in Toronto and Montreal. What are you expecting in Helsinki this time around?"
DL: "Last year was definitely an experience of a lifetime and that's going to be tough to duplicate. To win the gold medal in Toronto and to also have the great fan support we got in Montreal will be something we'll remember forever and it really brought hockey fans together right across the country. But there's still going to be a good atmosphere in Finland and, as a coach, I have to be more concerned about how our players are going to handle the big ice instead of worrying about how big and how loud the crowds are going to be."
HN: "What's the biggest difference between last year's team and this year's edition?"
DL: "The biggest change is that we don't have any "generational players" to lead the way. This year's group is going to have to work hard as a team and forge their own path. Last year's team was an older group and this year's squad is really going to have to rely on eachother to get where we want to go. We're going to have to play with a lot of passion and energy to give us a chance to accomplish some of our goals.
HN: "So, it's a new team with a lot of new faces. As a coach, how do you go about identifying the character and personality of each player in such a short time?"
DL: "You have to reach out and rely on the experience of other people. You can get a good read on the kids by talking to their coaches, talking to their teammates and friends, checking in with the scouts. It's all about gathering as much information as you can to get a good feel for the people in your dressing room. The great thing is, most people are very forthcoming about sharing their knowledge, especially if they think it's going to help the player put his best foot forward when he's trying to make the team."
HN: "And I imagine a lot of Canadian hockey people are willing to share if they also think it's going to help our country win a gold medal."
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