September 21, 2017

Legends of Team Canada: Trent Yawney

Trent Yawney went on to become a solid NHL defender most notably with the Chicago Blackhawks. 
But there was a time when the lanky and towering native of Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan was the face of Dave King's Canadian Olympic team.
Few players were more committed to King and the national team. He skated three full seasons - almost all of it on the road - under the demanding King, culminating in his participation in the pressure packed home Olympics in Calgary. 
"Playing for Dave King and his coaching staff is like going to hockey school for three years," he said. "The assistants were just great.
"Tom Watt had a lot to offer about the defensive aspects of the game and Guy Charron helped prepare me for the NHL after the Olympics."
Yawney was no different than all Canadian Olympians on their way to NHL teams. He was full of praise for his technical knowledge of the sport and the solid preparation.
"There's really no way to repay a guy like that other than just going out and making it in the NHL," Yawney says. "Hopefully, I can stick up here and that will be good for him."
King's three year influence on Yawney was profound. Yawney was Chicago's third-round draft pick in 1984 from the Saskatoon Blades. Yawney was able to hone his skills after junior. Once a lumbering defenceman, his skating has improved and his puck handling, too.
"I had played a great deal in junior hockey and I felt I had some ability," Yawney said. "But even after three heavy seasons, I knew I wasn't close to being ready for the NHL. I just had too many things to learn and too much growing up to do."
"I made the decision to join the Olympic team and the Blackhawks backed me in my choice completely," Yawney said. "They knew I had a great deal to learn and playing on a team with a heavy schedule against top competition and a coach as good as Dave King was the best place to do it.
"Even when the Blackhawks might have used me along the way, they respected the commitment I had made to the Olympic team and put no pressure on me to give that up."
"I'm not saying that the Olympic team is perfect for everyone but for several guys on the team who are in the NHL now, it was ideal," Yawney said. "I not only had top coaching, especially in improving skills, and really top competition, but the travel and the way the players grew into such a close group helped me mature, too.
"The top-notch world competition helped me improve every day. When you get against those top players, it puts you in your place in a hurry. We improved and that was the key to my development. And, we practiced as much as we played. You can't help but improve."
Of course, Yawney, King and the gang came up short of their goal of an Olympic gold medal in Calgary. They stumbled through a 3-1 loss to Finland, all but ruining their chances of any medal. Canada finished fourth
"I spent three seasons with the Olympic team, focused completely on two weeks in Calgary in '88," Yawney said. "We had come so far as a team and then it was wiped out in one period. One lousy period had such a high price."
Yawney went onto a 600 game NHL career before becoming a coach himself. He continued to spread King's influence at many levels.

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