The eyes of a nation are preparing to cast their gaze towards the Pengrowth Saddledome from August 24-27 as the home of the Calgary Flames becomes the epicentre for Canadian Hockey.
Olympic hopefuls, 46 top Canadian players, all of whom play professionally in the NHL, will assemble for the 2010 Olympic Orientation Camp, and begin the tryout process for what promises to be a pressure-packed tournament on home soil.
With the 2010 games taking place in Vancouver, there will be no respite from the attention and pressure the Canadian men’s team will face, and it revs up from the moment they lace up their skates at the orientation camp.
‘Own the podium’ has been the motto for all Canadian Olympic athletes in preparation for the upcoming Games, and it starts on the ice, with the deepest and most talented group of hockey players on the planet.
The road to gold will not be easy though. Sweden are the defending Olympic champions, Russia looks to be an offensive beast, the United States are young and fearless, while Finland and the Czech Republic have the talent to win as well.
Yet regardless of the other teams’ potential or ability, only one result will be acceptable to Canadians, and everyone involved in the program is keenly aware of this, particularly after a disappointing sixth place finish in Torino, Italy in 2006 for Team Canada.
When camp begins Monday, the Flames will be represented by Jarome Iginla
, Robyn Regehr, Dion Phaneuf, and Jay Bouwmeester
. Pundits are noting that Iginla is considered one of the favourites to be awarded the team’s captaincy.
“It's a thrill to be invited to camp and it's going to be right here, in Calgary, at the Saddledome, I’m very excited,” said Iginla.
“The Olympics are right around the corner and all of us who were invited want to make a good impression. Guys are extremely competitive from the first practice, nobody eases into it.”
The sting from the 2006 Olympics, where the Canadians failed to even claim a medal, losing to Russia in the quarter-finals, remains acute for Robyn Regehr, who knows the only prescription to cure his ailment, is winning gold in front of his fellow Canadians.
"I would like another shot because the outcome of the Olympics in Italy was extremely disappointing not just for myself, but anyone involved with that team," Regehr said.
"Playing in the Olympics on your home soil is probably going to be one of the most amazing things any player that's part of that is going to go through in his lifetime."
"To play in (the 2010) Olympics would be a total honour,” agreed Bouwmeester. “To do it in Canada would be pretty amazing."
The group of 46 players feature some of the top young layers in the game, as well as experienced veterans in the midst of the prime of their careers. Eleven of the invitees are the captains of their current NHL clubs; while twelve others are alternates. Eighteen of the players are returning Olympians, while 42 of them have previously represented Canada in IIHF World Championships.
Executive director Steve Yzerman has assembled enough size, skill, talent, and toughness to construct a line-up that will haunt the dreams of their opponents. Yzerman, along with associate directors Doug Armstrong, Kevin Lowe, and Ken Holland, as well as coaches Rob Babcock, Lindy Ruff, Jacques Lemaire, and Ken Hitchcock, have a limited window to analyze and evaluate the play of Canada's elite.
Players not invited to the orientation camp can still be considered for both the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and 2010 IIHF World Championship. Canada's Olympic team will not be chosen solely from the orientation camp alone -- the Team Canada team will monitor and scout players through the first portion of the NHL schedule before finalizing a roster for Vancouver.
Practices will be closed to the general public next week but tickets to the Red-White scrimmage on August 27 can be purchased as part of the Team Canada Hockey Hat Trick which also includes two additional upcoming Team Canada games at the ‘Dome, a Canada vs. United States women’s hockey game on December 15, and a Canada vs. Finland pre-World Junior game on December 22.
The Team Canada Hockey Hat Trick ticket package can be purchased at the Pengrowth Saddledome or through Ticketmaster outlets, by phone at (403) 777-000 or online at www.ticketmaster.ca
The list of invitees to the orientation camp is as follows:Forwards:
Jeff Carter, Dan Cleary, Sidney Crosby, Shane Doan, Simon Gagné, Ryan Getzlaf (Recovering from sports hernia surgery, will attend and take part in activities), Dany Heatley Jarome Iginla
, Vincent Lecavalier, Milan Lucic, Patrick Marleau, Andy McDonald, Brenden Morrow, Rick Nash, Corey Perry, Michael Richards, Derek Roy, Patrick Sharp,
Ryan Smyth, Jason Spezza (Replacing Ryan Getzlaf), Martin St-Louis, Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Joe Thornton, Jonathan Toews.
François Beauchemin, Jay Bouwmeester
, Dan Boyle, Brent Burns, Drew Doughty, Mike Green, Dan Hamhuis, Duncan Keith, Scott Niedermayer, Dion Phaneuf, Chris Pronger,
Robyn Regehr, Stéphane Robidas, Brent Seabrook, Marc Staal, Shea WeberGoaltenders:
Martin Brodeur, Marc-André Fleury, Roberto Luongo, Steve Mason, Cam Ward