Is Callan Foote Eligible to Play for Team Canada at the World Juniors?

By Tom Hunter (@PuckDontLie)

As they do every summer, Hockey Canada has assembled the best junior-aged hockey players in the country to begin the process of selecting the team that will wear the Maple Leaf during the 2016-17 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship.

One name that might stick out to hockey fans when they look at the roster for the summer evaluation camp is Callan (Cal) Foote. Cal is the eldest son of long-time NHLer Adam Foote.

At 6’3, 200lbs, the 17-year old defenseman is widely regarded as a top-10 pick in next June’s NHL draft and one of the best prospects in the CHL. Thanks to his status as a top defender in junior hockey, it’s no surprise that Foote’s name is brought up when discussing the World Juniors. The issue is that for the longest time, no one knew which team he would play for.

As a result of his father’s long career south of the border, Cal was born and raised in Colorado – but thanks to Adam’s citizenship, he holds both Canadian and American passports. Foote is one of the best prospects in his draft class, so of course, he was recruited heavily by both Hockey Canada and the USNDT.

Cal is a product of an American development system. He grew up playing all of his minor hockey in Colorado and took place in many camps and tournaments run by the US National Development program. Despite being a born and bred American hockey player, Cal – as well as his younger brother Nolan who is taking part in Canada’s U17 camp – has been inspired by his father’s time wearing the red and white Maple Leaf and decided that he wants to represent Canada when playing internationally.

His two-time Stanley Cup winning father represented Canada five separate times, winning an Olympic gold medal in 2002 and a World Cup of Hockey in 2004.

When he made his decision, Hockey Canada jumped at the opportunity to invite him to this summer’s evaluation camp. Foote is one of only two 2017 draft eligible players at the camp. Along with Nolan Patrick – the consensus top prospect this year – Foote is looking to make a team that is normally dominated by 19-year olds. Despite his status as an ‘underager’, Foote has the talent to do something that very few defenders have ever done – make Team Canada in his draft year. The problem is that Foote might not even be eligible to play for Canada at this year’s tournament.

During Canada’s first game of the World Junior Summer Showcase against Finland – a game in which Foote didn’t play – TSN’s junior hockey analyst Craig Button brought up the topic. He mentioned that people around Hockey Canada that he had spoken with weren’t sure whether or not Foote could play this December.

When the topic was brought up on twitter, someone who follows the US National Development program very closely brought up a very good point:

He’s right, this situation with Foote seems to be exactly the same as what happened last year with St. Louis Blues prospect Jake Walman – but in reverse.

Walman was born and raised in Toronto. He grew up playing in the GTHL and OJHL before taking an NCAA scholarship to play for the Providence Friars. Thanks to his American mother, Walman is a duel citizen and despite growing up in the Canadian hockey system, Walman decided that he wanted to play for the US World Junior team.

Unfortunately, after participating in USA Hockey’s development camp in Lake Placid last summer, the IIHF ruled that Walman was ineligible to play for them internationally. Bob McKenzie explained why:

As a Canadian-born and Canadian-developed/trained hockey player, a U.S. passport alone is not enough for him to play for the Americans.

Walman was required to reside in the U.S. for 16 months. Apparently, he met that IIHF requirement.

But he must also be deemed by the IIHF to have played two consecutive seasons in the U.S. He’s currently in the midst of his second consecutive season in Providence but that apparently wasn’t good enough for the IIHF. The application was rejected.

 

If the IIHF ruled that Jake Walman was ineligible to play for Team USA last winter, logic would dictate that Cal Foote isn’t eligible to play for Team Canada this year. Like Walman, Foote has lived in Canada for the 16 months necessary, thanks to his time playing for the Kelowna Rockets. Unfortunately, he is only going into his second season in the WHL and thus Foote will not have met the requirement of two consecutive seasons playing in Canada by the time the tournament comes around in December.

Nothing is official from the IIHF and the whole thing could be moot since Canada rarely takes defenseman as young as Foote to the World Juniors, but it stinks that a kid might be held back from living out a dream because of a bureaucratic technicality.

Regardless of what happens this year, two things are certain;

  1. Cal Foote is going to hear his name called in the first round of next June’s NHL Entry Draft
  2. He will be eligible to play for team Canada next year during the 2017-18 World Junior tournament in Buffalo, NY.

We will likely get to see Foote in a Team Canada jersey sooner rather than later since this week’s summer showcase tournament isn’t an IIHF sanctioned event. Whether it’s this year or next, Cal Foote is going to be a very big part of a Canadian Junior team and all this nonsense will be long forgotten when he’s following in his father’s footsteps in the NHL.

 

 

 

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