Team Canada assistant coach Dominique Ducharme will remain with the team for the rest of the 2016 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship after the death of his father.
Ducharme’s father Jacques passed away in his sleep Tuesday night, but the Halifax Mooseheads coach will stay with Team Canada in Finland.
“There’s just a week left,” Ducharme said. “My dad was very proud that I’m here and I think he would have wanted me to stay.”
Ducharme’s mother also pushed him to stay and finish the tournament. He learned of his father’s death after Canada’s 3-2 win over Switzerland.
Head coach Dave Lowry and the team are in full support mode of their assistant coach.
“It shows how much the tournament is important to him,” Lowry said. "It's unfortunate what happened last night but his dad would expect him to carry on, push on and he got the same encouragement from his mom.
“I know he had a very strong relationship with his dad."
"We're all here for him," said Lawson Crouse. "We're going to do whatever we can to win him and his family a gold medal."
“We were really shocked,” Julien Gauthier added. “He wants to win the gold with us. We’ll do our best for him.”
“It’s really hard to take,” said Roland McKeown. “He’s an awesome person, and an awesome assistant coach. He’s handled it tremendously.
“He had a very heartfelt speech in the room. We’re going to jell behind him and do it for him.”
Ducharme did participate in practice Wednesday with the team, and a few players shook his hand and showed their support at the end of practice. He was not available for interviews, but did have a strong message for the team.
According to McKeown, Ducharme told the team how his father taught him to compete.
“You only get so many opportunities in this life, and take everything you have here with this opportunity,” said McKeown.
Hockey Canada’s Scott Salmond expressed his and the team’s support for Ducharme in a statement.
"Our hearts go out to Dom and his family during this difficult time," Salmond said. "We fully support Dom; he is a valuable member of this team and of our coaching staff. We extend sincere condolences to the Ducharme family back in Canada."
Lowry said his players really want to win for Ducharme.
"The kids were kind of shocked," said Lowry. "We know we have a very strong group and the kids have shown a tremendous amount of support for him."
Canada has two wins and a loss so far in the tournament, though one of those wins came in overtime against Switzerland. Sweden leads the group with a 3-0 record, and Team USA has a 2-1 record, but both wins were in regulation.
Switzerland will move to the relegation round to take on Belarus in a best-of-3 series. The winner stays in the top group of the tourney.
Team Russia is leading Group B, with the Czech Republic and host Finland in hot pursuit.
Team Canada takes on Sweden Thursday to wrap up round robin action. A win and a Team USA loss to Denmark, however unlikely, would put Canada in second place in Group A.
Canada could finish in second or third place at the end of the round robin games Thursday, which would give them a quarterfinal date with either the second or third place team in Group B.
The playoff round begins Saturday, with the medal games set to go Jan. 5.
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