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A veteran presence

by Julie Robenhymer / Vancouver Canucks

Dan Hamhuis has more than a handful of medals to hang around his neck, including two golds from the 2014 Olympics and 2007 World Championship.

But one more wouldn't hurt.

As a member of Team Canada at the 2015 IIHF World Championship in Czech Republic, he will do his best to help the team win their first world championship medal in six years.

"There's always pressure on Canada to win and it's something that we're used to. Our record here hasn't been great in recent years, but this is a new year and a new team and I think there's a lot of confidence and a lot of belief in our group," said the 32-year-old defenseman.

There's a lot to be confident about if you're wearing the red and white maple leaf these days. After going a perfect 7-0 in the preliminary round and outscoring their opponents by 35 goals, Canada has the highest scoring offense in the tournament. Lead by Matt Duchene and Jason Spezza, with four goals and seven assist for 11 points each to tie for the tournament lead in scoring, and Taylor Hall who is tied for second in the tournament in goals with six, plus the likes of Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux and Tyler Seguin in your line-up, Canada is not lacking in terms of offensive weapons. It's part of the reason why they've scored 15 more goals than anyone in the tournament.

Another reason they've been able to find success so far in Prague is the veteran leadership and international experience throughout the line-up and Hamhuis is a big part of that.

"I've had a lot of experience playing for Canada and it never gets old. It's always an honor to put the jersey on. It started when I was 18 at World Juniors and now this is my sixth World Championship, plus an Olympics in between," he explained. "I definitely think I can bring some leadership from the past tournaments that I've been a part of."

After two World Junior Championships, five World Championships and one Olympic Games, in which he's earned one bronze medal, three silvers and two golds, plus a 13-year professional career, he's got a lot of experience to draw from.

"Any time you get to have success on a team, after that tournament, you can reflect on where things went well and why and I try to bring that to this group," said Hamhuis. "It's such a short tournament and every game matters - even the ones that aren't close. You might be up 10-0 on Germany, but it's still important in that third period to execute on our game plan because you don't often have a lot of practice time to work everything out. So, you have to take advantage of the opportunities when you can.

"These games are pretty competitive, especially when you get to this point in the tournament when it's do or die - a Game 7 situation - every time and I think the more you get to be in situations like that, the better. They're always good learning experiences."

In addition, outside of the potential to win another medal, there's a lot for him to gain from the experience and bring back to the Vancouver Canucks next season.

"First of all, just playing with and against some of the best players in the world. You see their habits and how they prepare on and off the ice. You get to experience new coaches and pick up new things with learning different systems," he said. "Plus, you get to know guys that maybe you've only played against before and you can build better relationships with them. That's been a big focus for our group here - to come together quickly. We've done some great team-building both on and off the ice and I think it's been great."

As far as his contributions to the team, Hamhuis isn't trying to do anything fancy or be anything he's not.

"I just try to anchor the blueline and display a simple, solid game back there. I've got a partner that's quite active and skates a lot and just try to support him and his game as well." he said of his current defense partner, Brent Burns.

As the medal round begins, the level of competition ramps up as the best of the best battle for the opportunity to play for gold.

"We need to start better," Hamhuis said in regard to what he and his team will be focusing on heading into Thursday's quarterfinal. "Ever since this team's been together, we haven't had the best starts. We realize that we aren't going to be able to come back all the time from a three-goal deficit [like we did against Sweden earlier in the preliminary round]. So, it's something we need to work on and pay attention to.

"It really comes down to thinking about the process," he continued. "It's so easy to think about the outcome you want and when you focus only on that it makes it harder and that's when you feel the pressure, but if you just focus on the process - the little things you have to do each shift - the next thing you know there could be a gold medal around your neck."

The road to gold continues for Hamhuis and Team Canada Thursday against Belarus at 7:15 a.m. PT on TSN.

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