CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Jim Hulton has coached at two world junior hockey championships, but never in Canada.
That will change in December when the Charlottetown Islanders head coach steps behind the bench as an assistant coach with Team Canada. This year’s tournament will be played in Vancouver and Victoria, B.C., from Dec. 26, 2018, to Jan. 5, 2019.
“This will be the first opportunity to experience the home-field advantage,” Hulton said.
Hockey Canada announced its coaching staff on Tuesday. Moose Jaw Warriors bench boss Tim Hunter will be the head coach while Marc-André Dumont (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles) and Brent Kisio (Lethbridge Hurricanes) join Hulton as assistants.
Hulton, a 49-year-old Wolfe Island, Ont., native, has coached the Islanders for three seasons while also adding the general manager duties the past two years.
He was on the staff in 2004 when Canada lost to the Americans in Helsinki, Finland, when goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s attempt to clear the puck went off defenceman Braydon Coburn into the open net late in a tie game with the gold medal on the line.
Hulton was on the “dream team” the next year in North Dakota when the NHL lockout provided Team Canada with arguably the nation’s most talented squad for the tournament. They captured gold with a team that had a top line of Patrice Bergeron, Sidney Crosby and Corey Perry. The squad also included a long list of future NHLers including Ryan Getzlaf, Jeff Carter, Dion Phaneuf and Shea Weber.
“Fourteen years ago, I was lucky enough to win a gold medal,” Hulton said. “Anytime you get an opportunity to represent your country it’s an honour and a privilege and I feel very fortunate to get the opportunity to go back.”
He has never been to a world junior game in Canada, but from watching the event continue to grow in communities like Red Deer, Alta., Winnipeg, Halifax, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, Hulton has an idea of what he’s in for.
“It’s such a big deal,” he said. “I can only imagine the fever that’s going to grip Vancouver and Victoria.”
After the world junior experience, Hulton spent time in the NHL and the United States Hockey League before an opportunity to move to Canada’s East Coast presented itself.
“Without the move to Charlottetown there’s no way this happens,” he said.
Hulton said he reached out to the team’s hockey committee before interviewing with Hockey Canada. He said the opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without the support of family, ownership and a strong hockey operations staff.
This won’t be the first time someone from the Islanders has been part of Team Canada at the tournament. Athletic therapist Kevin Elliott was on the past two teams while goalie Mason McDonald was on the squad in 2015.
And the Isles will have more connections with Hockey Canada this year.
Defenceman Lukas Cormier will attend the under-17 camp, Brett Budgell the under-18 camp and there could be another in the coming days when the world junior development Canada roster is announced. Isles captain Pierre-Olivier (P.O.) Joseph is eligible for the squad.
“If the rest of the country can see how good we know he is, and the rest of the staff, he should have a very good shot,” Hulton said.