In a country as expansive as Canada, the differences between different parts of the country often seem to outweigh the similarities, but hockey seems to be one of the few components of the cultural fabric of Canada that almost all Canadians take pride in.
With the 2010 Olympics taking place on home soil, nothing short of Gold for both the women's and men's hockey teams will suffice. The debate has been ongoing for months already over the composition of the team that faces more anticipation and higher expectations than perhaps any in the history of the sport, but the speculation is getting close to ending. The process of selecting those on whose shoulders the hopes of a nation ride officially began today, as Hockey Canada released the list of invitees for the Olympic men's hockey team orientation camp.
The camp runs from August 24-27 at the Pengrowth Saddledome, meaning Jarome Iginla
, Robyn Regehr, Jay Bouwmeester
and Dion Phaneuf will be playing host to the other 42 roster invitees. The four Flames players were among the select few chosen by the executive director of Team Canada, Steve Yzerman.
"To play in those Olympics would be a total honour. To play in Canada would be fantastic. But it's a long way off right now," said new Flames defenseman Jay Bouwmeester
Bouwmeester, along with Iginla and Regehr, all have experience from the 2006 games. Dion Phaneuf was deemed too young for the 2006 Olympic team, but he will be given an opportunity this time around.
In total there were 5 goaltenders, 16 defensemen and 25 forwards invited to Calgary. With a total of 23 spots available, competition will be fierce for the right to don the maple leaf and attempt to claim Gold as an entire nation watches. All four Flames are expected to be given strong consideration for the team; Iginla is one of the favourites to be captain.
Calgary was chosen as the host city for the camp over Vancouver, the site of the 2010 Olympics, because the women's team and the sledge hockey team will be in town training at the same time, and Hockey Canada wanted the unique opportunity to have the three teams gathered in one city.
Players not invited to the orientation camp can still be considered for both the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and 2010 IIHF World Championship. Although in both 2002 and 2006, the teams were comprised entirely of players who had been invited to the orientation camp.