When Cam York looks around the American locker room in Edmonton, he sees a room full of leaders.
The players who fill that room and make up the U.S. National Junior Team roster, however, see York as the one most fit to wear the “C” as formal leader of the group that will begin pursuit of a medal Christmas Day at 9:30 p.m. EST in a game against Russia that can be seen on the NHL Network.
“At the end of the day, I’m wearing the letter, but there’s a room full of leaders in there,” York said. “We need everybody if we want to be a gold-medal team.
“It means a lot to me. I’ve worked extremely hard. It’s an honor to wear that letter, especially on this team, with so many good players.”
Team USA brings back eight players from the 2020 tournament. York, a University of Michigan sophomore who is the only defenseman in that group, said the returnees understand how difficult a challenge they are about to face.
“Last year was tough for us,” he said. “It definitely didn’t go the way we wanted to, but we definitely learned a lot. I think the second-year guys, we’re trying to show the younger guys the way.
“This tournament is not easy. There are so many good players, so many good teams. It’s not easy to win, but we feel like we’ve built a really good identity as a team.”
York’s captaincy was announced by USA Hockey Thursday, along with Cole Caufield and Alex Turcotte being named alternate captains for the first preliminary round game against Russia.
“It says a lot about this leadership group being voted in by their teammates,” Team USA head coach Nate Leaman said. “It’s a tremendous honor to be named captains and represent your country.
“This isn’t our team, this is their team. I believe our locker room is filled with leaders, and to be successful, each guy will need to step up and be a leader in their own way, whether wearing a letter or not.”
York is quite familiar with those players wearing the “A” against Russia.
All three played together at the U.S. National Team Development Program (2017-2019), were twice part of teams that earned medals in the IIHF World Under-18 Championship and were on the Junior National Team last season.
“Those two are drivers up front,” York said. “They work extremely hard and they show up every night. The thing that separates them is their work ethic.
“… It’s going to be really important for us as a team for those guys to be really big for us. Especially in a tournament like this, we’re going to need those guys to score some goals for us and make some plays. I think the younger guys look up to them a lot.”
The three players were also part of a group of highly regarded U.S. prospects who worked together regularly throughout the summer in Plymouth, Michigan, preparing for the hockey season, even with all the uncertainty that surrounded it because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I usually train back home in Southern California, but this year I was out in Plymouth, Michigan, working with [NTDP strength and conditioning coach] Brian Galivan over at the USA Hockey Arena,” York said. “I was skating with a bunch of old program guys.
“I felt like I put in a lot of work and I gained about 10 pounds of muscle and that translated on the ice. I feel like that is making me a more confident player out there, knowing that I’m physically able to go up against top guys and big, strong, heavy guys down low.”
York, who set Under-18 World Championship records for all-time tournament assists (13) and points (17) by a defenseman, will be looked to for contributions on both ends of the ice — as well as on the bench and in the locker room.
“This is the big stage, especially right now, with pretty much nothing going on and pretty much the whole world watching,” he said. “It’s a really exciting event.
“I know the guys are really fired up about it, but I think it’s about staying calm and staying in the moment. There’s a lot of people watching, but doing what you do best and trusting in your abilities is the biggest thing.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.