One does not merely walk into Hockey Canada as a member of the world junior team staff.
It takes years, starting with the development programs, where you learn the system and gain the trust of the top brass. Some will apply and never get a sniff.
For Khore Elliott, the Victoria Royals athletic therapist, the call up to the big time has come. Elliott’s been appointed the athletic therapist for Team Canada at the 2019 world juniors, which takes place in Vancouver and Victoria, Dec. 26 to Jan. 5. This week Elliott was with Team Canada in Kamloops for the Sport Chek World Junior Showcase that ends Saturday.
The Kamloops Showcase is a chance for about 25-30 bubble players to fight for the final 10 spots on Team Canada, which will attempt to defend its 2018 gold medal in December. It’s also a chance for the team staff, such as Elliott, to become familiar with each other, head coach Tim Hunter, and the players. The players will also get used to Elliott, as the consummate professional will be handling their injuries small and large.
“This is it, this is as high a level you can reach with junior,” said Elliott, brimming with enthusiasm on a warm July afternoon. “I’m pretty jacked up. I’m honoured, and I’m privileged. A lot of people apply and don’t get to go.”
One thing that’s nice about international tournaments is everyone comes in healthy, said Elliott.
“You’re not babysitting anyone at this level,” he said. “Most of them have been through Hockey Canada at some point. They’ve faced adversity to get here. It’s going to be cool just to be a part of it, it’s a brand new experience but I know the expectations and I don’t feel any added pressure.”
#NEWS | A gold medal-winning assistant in 2018, Tim Hunter is the new head coach of Team Canada, with assistants Marc-André Dumont, Jim Hulton and Brent Kisio. #WorldJuniors #REPRESENThttps://t.co/ZsfhRpXhD9 pic.twitter.com/uG6JitKfSV
— #WorldJuniors (@HC_WJC) July 3, 2018
One thing about Elliott, he’ll come across as a cut and dry hockey man. But if you’re not ready, he’ll pull the rug out from underneath you. He can, and will, catch unsuspecting victims with a mean deadpan.
“I try to keep it loose. There will be a lot to learn with how I’ll work with Tim Hunter and the staff,” Elliott said. “I had a tremendous relationship with [Dave Lowry] and now I have a great one with [Dan Price]. I’ve heard Hunter is great to work with. There’s a lot of trust between the coach and me.”
Following the Showcase life will return to normal (as normal as can be for a 38 year old who spends more time at the rink than anywhere else) in mid August when the Royals’ prospects come for camp. That bleeds into main camp, the preseason, and then the grind of the WHL regular season.
“Last year was the most travel I’ve ever experienced, the most difficult year for travel so far,” Elliott said.
The shining light, another promising year working with the returning Royals’ talent, and a chance to help Team Canada win gold at the world juniors, starting with a pair of exhibition games in Victoria. Team Canada will hold a final training camp at The Q Centre starting Dec. 10 followed by a pair of to-be-determined exhibition matches at Save On Foods Memorial Centre. Those will be before Christmas as the tournament starts Dec. 26.
“To be on Team Canada here in Victoria, with my family in the stands, it will be amazing,” said Elliott, raised in the Comox Valley.
@victoriaroyals trainer Khore Elliott will rep as a trainer for Team Canada at the U20 world championships in Victoria/Vancouver in December. (Here's his 2015 feature, he's been in the pipeline for a while.)https://t.co/FP9e6Vb4H6
— The Saan Man (@TravisAPaterson) July 4, 2018
Elliott joined the Salmon Kings in 2009 and has been the Victoria Royals athletic therapist since the team arrived from Chilliwack in 2012. It wasn’t long after that he started with Hockey Canada, working two summers in the U17 national tournament, then two more international tournaments with Team Canada at the U18 Ivan Hlinka. In total, he’s worked four of the last five years with Hockey Canada with a goal of joining Team Canada for the U20 IIHF World Juniors.
“I’ve been through the ranks, I’ve done what I was asked,” Elliott smiled. “Getting to the world juniors was my five year plan when I started with the Royals. This is my fifth time in six years, this is such a privilege.”
As reigning champs, Team Canada won the rights to use the Canucks’ dressing room as theirs for the entirety of the tournament. As silver medalists, Sweden will use the Royals’ dressing room based here in Victoria.
At this week’s World Junior Showcase in Kamloops, Canada, like the U.S., have brought a long list of 39 players. The two countries start the tournament Tuesday in a pair of split-squad games against each other. Canada will resume play with a focused roster Thursday, Friday and Saturday against Finland, Sweden and the U.S.