Cochranite and Seattle Thunderbirds star defenceman Tyrel Bauer was one of the 44 players invited to Canada's National Men's summer Under-18 Team selection camp when the roster was announced on June 26. The camp will take place July 26 to 30 at the Markin MacPhail Centre at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park in Calgary.
"It was a very exciting announcement. It's a huge honour any time you have the opportunity to wear the maple leaf and represent your country," Bauer said. "Players work very hard for opportunities such as these throughout their careers so it is very humbling to get this opportunity."
"I have never been to a Hockey Canada camp like this before, so I'm not really sure what to expect. However, I do know there is going to be a group of very talented players fighting for limited positions. It will be competitive and high tempo. We will be treated like professionals, and in turn must act like professionals every moment of camp. Camps like these are a once in a lifetime opportunity. It will be fun and a great learning experience in a new atmosphere."
The players, including four goaltenders, 14 defencemen and 26 forwards, will compete for a chance to represent Canada at 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup in Breclav, Czech Republic, and Piestany, Slovakia.
“We are excited to bring together a group of 44 athletes with a solid foundation of junior and international experience for selection camp. The under-18 camp is unlike any other, as players are being evaluated from the moment they arrive at camp and are preparing to compete in short-term competition,” said Shawn Bullock, director of men’s national teams for Hockey Canada in a statement on the Hockey Canada website. “Historically, Canada has been successful at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, and we know all 44 players will come to camp ready to compete for a spot on the team and the opportunity to wear the Maple Leaf in international competition.”
“This is great for Ty,” said Seattle Thunderbirds general manager Bill La Forge. “The chance to play for your country against top international players in his age group will be a big step in his development. We’re looking forward to seeing him compete for a spot on Team Canada.”
The recently turned 17-year-old Bauer suited up for 64 games in the Western Hockey League regular season where he registered two goals and 12 assists for 14 points in those games as a rookie. The young defenceman, who was selected in the second round of the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft by Seattle and signed a Standard Player Agreement with the team on June 14 of last year, spent last season with the Airdrie CFR AAA Bisons where he scored three goals and eight assists for 11 points in 32 games.
During the WHL playoffs, Bauer played in all six games for the T-Birds, registering one assist in Game 2 to go along with two penalty minutes and five shots on goal.
Bauer said he has one goal in mind when he steps on the ice in late July in order to earn his spot on Team Canada.
"For me it's simple. I have to play my game ... every player got selected for a reason, and we all bring something unique to the table," Bauer said. "I'll need to be mentally and physically prepared to overcome any challenges that may arise. Short-term competition such as this camp and the tournament are pressure filled; you need a short-term memory. Mistakes are bound to happen but it's how to rebound from them that's important. Lastly, I'm just going to try and have fun. It will be a fun environment with great players who have great character. I just need to play my game, enjoy the moment and the rest of it will be up to the coaching staff."
With his rookie season behind him, the 17-year-old defenceman is now eligible for the upcoming 2020 NHL Draft, where Bauer hopes he'll hear his name called. It's early in the process but should he make Team Canada and put his best foot forward throughout the season, his draft stock is sure to rise.
"Yes it's very early in the (draft) process," Bauer said with a laugh. "All of that is in the back of your mind, but it's never something you focus on. You just have to get better every day and keep doing your best, that's all you can control. However with that being said, should I make the Hlinka team, I would do everything in my power to help the team win. Individual success is closely tied with team success and to be a competitive team, you need buy in from everybody. Therefore, I would do anything the team needs me to do ... block shots, win battles and play my style of hockey unselfishly with the hopes of bringing home a gold medal."
One of the only true, best-on-best competitions for this age group, the Hlinka Gretzky Cup will see Team Canada play its preliminary-round games at Ice Bors Arena in Breclav. The event will run from Aug. 5-10, with Canada facing off against the Czech Republic, Finland and Switzerland in prelim play before the tournament wraps up with the bronze and gold medal games on Aug. 10.
In 2018, the tournament was rebranded as the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and hosted in Canada, with Edmonton and Red Deer serving as co-hosts. Canada captured gold on home ice, defeating Sweden 6-2 in the gold medal game with a team that included 14 players who were selected in the 2019 NHL Draft.
Canada has won gold 22 times in 28 years of summer under-18 competition, along with two silver medals and one bronze.