Dawes looks to carry the torch into Kootenay’s future

By Jeff Bromley

Nigel Dawes is carrying on a tradition of
sorts. Returning to Cranbrook one week
prior to the opening of 2002 training
camp of the Memorial Cup champion
Kootenay ICE, Dawes has some more
hardware to place upon his mantle – a
gold medal from Canada’s win at the
under-18 Eight-Nations Tournament in
Priestany, Slovakia, this country’s sixth
gold medal in a row at that tournament.
Throw in the trophy for the
tournament’s top forward along with the
gold medal and Memorial Cup ring he’ll
soon be sporting, Dawes junior career to
this point has been momentous.

Of course that was only the first year so
you’ll have to excuse me for thinking we
haven’t seen anything yet.

His first chance to play internationally in
his you hockey career, Dawes loved his
first taste of playing for his country but
admitted it was a little nerve-wracking at
first. “I think a little bit,” said Dawes
said of the pressure that comes with
donning the Maple Leaf. “It seems like
everyone is out to get you and there’s all
these distractions to try and get you off
your game and a bunch of adversity you
have to battle through but I think most
of the guys just cherish the moment. The
first time you make the national team
and you’re playing for your country, it’s
a great experience and they were a great
group of guys that I played with. It
couldn’t have been much better.”

The Winnipeg native excelled on a line
with Nate Horton and Cory Perry of the
Oshawa Generals and the Peterborough
Petes of the OHL, respectively. For the
diminutive center whose game thrives on
speed and the ability to make opponents
miss, the big ice surface of the European
rink wasn’t too hard to get used to. “It
was good, there was a lot of room out
there, especially on the power-plays,”
said Dawes. “There’s a lot more room
to set up and manoeuver a lot easier
without being checked. It’s definitely a
different game (there’s) little more
finesse and its not as physical except for
with us, Canadians always play physical.
The reffing was a little different, we had
to get used to that but overall it was a
great experience.”

“I guess I liked it, I’m not going to
really complain about it but I don’t
really mind the North American size
either. You’ve got to do a little more
skating on the European size.”

The tournament, for players born in
1985, has grown from four to eight
nations competing over the past five
years and has matured into a topnotch
tournament to which NHL scouts
gravitate. The dominance of the
Canadians however, outscoring their
opponents this year by a 35-11 margin,
can’t help but jump out at you. Despite
the skewed scores, the 6-5 victory over
the Swiss being the closest, Dawes said
the competition is closer than the scores
indicate. “We didn’t play our best game
and they (the Swiss) came flying at us,”
said Dawes. “It was a tough game but I
don’t think we were playing our best, if
we had I don’t think it would’ve been as
close as it was. I’d guess that the
Russians were the toughest team but all
the games didn’t seem like blowouts.
The scores were high but they were
closer than the scores made them look.
They were still close at some point in
the games before we took off. Even our
first two games even though they were
lopsided, they were all intense games.”

“They (the games) weren’t as difficult as
the games in the Under-17 but we had
such a good team compared to some of
the others, I guess.”

Dawes, who at seventeen has followed
in the golden footsteps of Kootenay ICE
alumni at the Under-18 tournament of
Steve McCarthy, Kyle Wanvig, Jarret
Stoll, Dan Blackburn and Andy
Thompson during the WHL club’s four-
year tenure in Cranbrook, has some big
shoes to fill. Of course Dawes won’t do
it alone but he will draw the
expectations of the aforementioned
players now that he’s joined their ranks
when they were his age. “I don’t think
so, maybe a little bit, but I don’t really
look at it that way,” said Dawes of the
added expectation to perform at a higher
level this season “There’s 22 guys that
are going to help me do that so
everyone will have their role and
everyone will play their role without
trying to do too much or not doing
enough. You have to work together as a
team to get where we got last year.
Obviously I’m just one piece of the
puzzle and there’s a bunch of other guys
that are going to fill in their jobs if we’re
going to be successful.”

Quick Hits – Kootenay’s training camp
begins Thursday night at the Rec./Plex
where the players, broken into two
squads, will be put through the paces by
new head coach Cory Clouston and
newly arrived assistant Brad Lauer . . .
Camp will go all Labor-Day weekend
long before breaking with the club’s
annual Blue-White Intra squad game
Monday at the ‘Plex . . . One of the
biggest question marks before training
camp will be whether or not departed
defenseman Andy Thompson will report
to camp. Thompson left the club after
the second round playoff victory over
the Seattle Thunderbirds for family
reasons and didn’t return.