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Chu: US team ready for early showdown with Canada

Saturday, 04.07.2012 / 11:12 AM / NHL Insider

By Julie Chu - Special to NHL.com

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Chu: US team ready for early showdown with Canada
Chu: US team ready for early showdown with Canada

The 2012 IIHF Women's World Championship starts Saturday, Apr. 7, in Burlington, Vt. Julie Chu from the United States team and Canadian team member Meghan Agosta will be blogging for NHL.com about their experiences during the tournament.

It's been a whirlwind tour so far with the tryouts and the preparation, but it's exciting now that we're in Burlington and we're getting a chance to see the Douglas Cairns Arena and be in this environment and soak up everything about getting a chance to host the World Championships in our home country.

I think that for us, it's a very special thing. The last time we did it was in 2001. It was actually my first World Championship ever. I was just a starry-eyed kid, and I kind of point back to that moment a little bit and it's unreal to think that I'm still able to be a part of this incredible program and see how far we've come and see how far I've come as an individual.

Getting a chance to play at Gutterson Field House reminds us of the history of women's hockey. There were some great pioneers that came in the 90s and the early 2000s that really helped to pave the way and kind of created the environment that we all have the opportunity to play in now. It wasn't that easy. The resources weren't there.

Women's Team USA captain Julie Chu will be blogging about her experience in the 2012 World Championships in Burlington, VT.
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

In 1998, the USA and Canada had a pre-Olympic tour game at Gutterson Field House. It was the first nationally televised women's hockey game, it was a sold out crowd, and I think in a way, it is a historic moment for us to come back and host the world championships here considering the first televised women's hockey game was here.

I remember watching that game. I was at home at the time, I wasn't a part of the program then, and my mom and dad called me up and said, "hey, turn on this channel, the women's hockey team is playing team Canada." And I turned it on, even though I was supposed to be doing homework at the time, and I was glued to that television.

I think the incredible position that we have all been placed in is that we have an opportunity to impact a young girl out there. For a young hockey fan to enjoy and appreciate women's hockey in an environment that really cares about hockey with the long tradition [the University of Vermont] has, we're excited to be here and hopefully continue creating some history and tradition in this area.

So far the team has been getting along really well and we've already really come together.

Training camp started in Lake Placid, N.Y., on March 26. A group of seven of us bussed together from the CWHL playoffs in Niagara Falls. We actually arrived around 1 am. It was a late night and a long bus ride. We woke up the next morning and had an opportunity to go into testing as early as 9 am. When the alarm went off, we definitely hit it and rolled over and had a moment of "Oh, it's a little bit early today."

But, we got up and at breakfast we had a chance to see the rest of our teammates since we had missed the previous three days. And when it got down to it, we were able to compete as hard as we could in our conditioning test and in our off-ice test as well.

The conditioning test is always one where you really grit it out. It's never the part of the training and preparation that you would put in the category of fun. After testing was done, we got more into our regular practices and had an opportunity to work more on our on-ice things. We practiced twice a day and we got an opportunity at the end of the week to go up to Ottawa for an exhibition game with Canada.

We ended up losing 1-0, but for us it was still a great exhibition game to get our feet wet a little bit and to give our younger players some experience playing in that environment against Team Canada in a game that is always intense and competitive.

We always talk about the great rivalry that we have with them and I think that whether it's an exhibition game or a gold-medal game, it's a game that anyone who steps on that ice is ready to compete and play in. And we want to win.

The day after the exhibition game we had breakfast in the morning, then the final roster was chosen for the 2012 World Championship team and it was cut down from 27 players to 23. That team continued back to Lake Placid where we trained for a few more days. We had an opportunity to play Finland in an exhibition game last Tuesday and then on Wednesday we headed over to Burlington, Vt.

Julie Chu playing in a USA vs. Canada game in 2009 (Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

One of the first things we did when we took the ferry to Burlington was split into two groups. One group went to Mallet's Day School where they had an opportunity to talk to the students there and have lunch with them and go out at recess and play with them. The other group went to the children's ward at Fletcher Allen Healthcare where they got a chance to meet some of the patients and interact with them.

I think [the group that got to visit the in-patients] all came back with a sense of awe in the strength of the patients, because these young children that are battling a lot of difficult things. They had this spirit and resiliency that humbled all of us. That was the greatest thing for us, in a lot of ways. Here we were supposed to go in there and maybe help influence them in a positive way, or maybe take their minds off of the struggles that they are going through, but I think maybe we were more impacted in a truly great way than they were. That was a nice way to kick off our time here in the Burlington community.

For us, one of our mantras is when we step on the ice, we want to become better. It's our opportunity to every single day take a step forward and it's our focus to make sure that we are staying in the moment in order to do that. Our younger players are doing an incredible job. They have a ton of talent and a lot of enthusiasm and it's definitely infectious. I try to soak that up as much as I can.

Given the [new tournament] format, we have an opportunity to play Canada right off the bat. So, it's exciting and and we want to play the best hockey that we can against great competition and Canada is definitely one of our biggest rivals and a great team. We like to play them as many times as we can and kicking off with it will be great. From what I've heard, the game is supposed to be sold out on Saturday and that's pretty exciting. To kick off the World Championships playing against Canada only increases our excitement for getting to host the games, and it also shows everyone in this community what a great game women's hockey can be.

With the growth of our sport there are a lot of skilled players out there and the combination of the youth and the veterans that we have on our team makes for a great balanced team that hopefully allows us to showcase our skills in this next week and play some great hockey in front of a lot of our friends and family that will be in the stands.

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