RED DEER – Shaun Clouston’s Christmas plans are going to look a little bit different than what he’s accustomed to.
The 55-year-old from Viking will be behind the bench as an assistant coach for Team Canada at the 2024 World Junior Hockey Championships December 26 to January 5 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Clouston has represented Canada on the international stage three times before - winning gold medals with Canada at the Ivan Hlinka tournament (now Hlinka/ Gretzky) in 2014 and 2015, and bronze at the 2016 U18 World Championships.
“It means a lot. It’s a huge honour for me,” Clouston said about his first trip to the World Juniors. “I’m thankful for the opportunity and I’m looking forward to getting back into the Hockey Canada program…. All of us on the staff have experience in these types of tournaments so it’s our job to help support the players and remove any obstacles they might have so they can play to the best of their abilities.”
Clouston is the General Manager and Head Coach of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers who were last year’s Memorial Cup hosts. He said organization and execution are the two most important keys to success.
“I think the plan heading into a short-term tournament is important. I think Hockey Canada does a really good job of mapping out a plan, making sure everything is taken care of – practices, warmups, cool downs, meals, travel,” Clouston said. “Those things are all incredibly important. The support group from the equipment guys, trainers, mental performance coaches are important as well… so when the tournament starts everyone is on the same page, they know what the vision is and we can all go after the end goal, which is winning a gold medal.”
Clouston grew up in Viking, population 929 (2022 statistics), where he joins an impressive list of players and coaches, including the Sutter family. He takes great pride in representing his hometown on such a big stage.
“It’s pretty cool. You’re proud of where you come from and I sincerely looked up to all the Sutter boys growing up,” Clouston said. “They’re a little bit older than I am, but when you go to a school that’s Kindergarten to Grade 12, you know everybody. They’re all great people, they’ve been extremely supportive and have followed my career as closely as I’ve followed their careers which is pretty amazing to hear. To have those guys set the course for what’s possible, for myself and others is really awesome…. I’m very grateful to be in hockey for this long and have it be a big part of my life and to grow up in Viking and have (the Sutters) lead the way.”