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Babcock looks forward to Canada's Olympic camp

Thursday, 07.30.2009 / 10:00 AM / All-Access Vancouver

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

"We're basically going to go through how we're going to play, the expectations of the players, what we're looking for, and then there will be a three-month evaluation period. We're going to be watching for what we are looking for and they are going to decide who is on the team."
-- Mike Babcock

If you think Canadian hockey fans are swept up in an Olympic frenzy now, Team Canada coach Mike Babcock wants you to remember one thing: You ain't seen nothin' yet.

Just wait until Canada's roster is announced, Babcock told NHL.com, and you'll really see a nation of hopeful nitpickers, naysayers, pundits and prognosticators.

"I'm glad I coach in the U.S., honestly," Babcock added. "It's just going to go crazy."

Speculation about who will make the team figures to run rampant until the roster is made public in December. The chatter will pick up steam next month when Calgary becomes the center of the country's hockey universe for four days as Canada holds its orientation camp Aug. 24-27.

Forty-five players (it would have been 46 had Joe Sakic not retired) will head to the Pengrowth Saddledome for a peak into the ins and outs of the 2010 Olympic team. Babcock and Hockey Canada's staff have been preparing all summer for the camp.

It's the only time before Feb. 15, when the NHL goes on its Olympic break, that prospective players for Canada's roster and the entire national team staff will be together in one arena.

After winning gold in Salt Lake in 2002, Canada finished a disappointing seventh in Turin in 2006. The pressure to win at home in Vancouver will be intense.

"I am just looking to impress the people that are watching," Columbus forward Rick Nash told NHL.com. "I know all 45 guys will be trying to shine and impress."

In preparation for the camp -- and Babcock stresses that it is an orientation camp, "not an evaluation camp" -- he has spent his summer communicating with executive staff members and assistant coaches as they create their team concept.

"We go over and over how we're going to deliver the message, our first meeting, the whole plan, team meals, team building," Babcock said. "It's all the details you could ever imagine, so when I go to training camp for the Detroit Red Wings in September I remember who pays me. The Olympic work has to be done in advance."

Communication is essential, and for Babcock that's not an issue at all. Two of the key players on Team Canada's executive staff -- Executive Director Steve Yzerman and Associate Director Ken Holland -- are his bosses in Detroit.

"Whether it's Olympic stuff or Red Wings stuff, often those are in the same conversations," Babcock said. "It makes it pretty easy for us. The other thing is I'm not getting to know anybody. That's way easier for me. Surprises aren't anything you want so communication is really important."

Part of the planning involved is researching the players and dissecting their abilities. That task is made easier since the 45 players invited already are known quantities in the NHL. But, "we don't know them well enough," Babcock said, which is why his research this summer has been intensive and the orientation camp is essential.

"We're basically going to go through how we're going to play, the expectations of the players, what we're looking for, and then there will be a three-month evaluation period," Babcock said. "We're going to be watching for what we are looking for and they are going to decide who is on the team. Then we're going to challenge them to do what they do within the framework of what we want them to do.

"Our players have to understand that their roles won't be the same. We're going to use depth to our advantage. Everyone can go all-out all the time because we have that depth."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com