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Senators get set to host Women's World Championships

by Chris Lund / Ottawa Senators

The Senators may be hitting the road to begin the month of April but Scotiabank Place will still be filled with world class hockey as the city of Ottawa is getting ready to play host to the 2013 IIHF Women's World Championships.

Officials for Hockey Canada, the Ottawa Senators, and the Ontario Women's Hockey Association were present on Monday as Canada announced the 23 names which will be representing their country in just a couple of weeks. The lineup is primarily comprised of the same players who were part of 2012's World Championship squad which beat the United States for gold in Burlington, Vt.

Cyril Leeder, president of Senators Sports and Entertainment and vice-chair of the Women's World Championship committee sees the event as a unique opportunity for the city and the OWHA.

"It's a special event anytime you get to get an opportunity to stage a world championship and get to cheer on your team and your country. It's one of those once-in-a-generation opportunities that doesn't come around that often. From a community point of view it's great, it's one of those things that makes the quality of life a little better. Something to do, something to look forward to and the economic impact is quite high. From the world championships and Ontario girls' championships the economic impact will be about $35 million for these two events."

With the highest calibre of women's hockey coming to Ottawa, many local athletes will be given a chance to a see an elite brand of the game they may not have the opportunity to experience on a regular basis. The platform and exposure the tournament will receive only serves to strengthen the game.

"We like to be out in front of these events, we like to grow our sport at all levels. At the minor level, at the professional level, boys, girls, we really do take that responsibility," said Leeder. "It is incumbent on us to help grow the game and hopefully the women's game will be a little bit better for it. It's an opportunity to shine the spotlight on their game for a week in our community and in our country and we're very proud of that. "

That growth was echoed by Team Canada Head Coach Dan Church. While many are quick to point out the women's game is dominated by Canada and the United States — no other country has won a gold medal — the growth in the game has been steady over the last 20 years going back to the tournament's first run in 1990, which also took place in Ottawa.

"We are seeing the game continue to get bigger and faster and more physical each year," Church said. With so much turnover from last year's roster, Canada should be strong from the get-go on April 2. "It allows us to pick up where we left off and continue to build as a group. It's definitely an advantage to keep the group together."

Forward Haley Irwin of Thunder Bay, Ont., echoed that sentiment, citing Canada's familiarity as a strength of the team, adding the team is excited to drop the puck on the tournament.

"There isn't much change from last year's worlds so I think we're familiar with each other. We're excited. Whenever the roster is finally announced it's an exciting time for us, and we can't wait to be here."

Canadian fans can expect a quintessentially Canadian style of hockey from this group. Playing up and down the full rink and asserting themselves physically, while competing with plenty of skill are hallmarks of the Canadian program. The 2013 edition won't be any different.

"We're a fast, physical team. Our coach always says to play fast on defence so that's a key," said Irwin. "We try to be a team that moves up the ice together. We can contribute from anyone, any line. We try to be a complete team."

This will be the first time since 2007 that Canada goes in as the defending champion to the tournament. The team doesn't see any additional pressure tied to that, according to Irwin. It's a privilege to come in as the reigning world champs.

"It's maybe a little bit more pressure in everyone else's eyes but for us we don't think of it that way. We think of it as an advantage to play at home, to play in front of your home crowd and everyone's cheering for you. That's a good thing. As far as defending champions, whether we're defending or not, everyone is going to bring their A-game. I don't know if it adds pressure but we're excited to defend it. It's an honour to be able to do that."

For fans who are on the fence about checking out the festivities, the message is pretty clear: You never know what you'll miss out on if you're not there.

"Come out, you don't want to miss it. Our slogan is 'Don't miss the moment.' It's great hockey, it's competitive hockey no matter who you're watching," said Irwin. "It's going to be great and you're going to want to be here."

Team Canada kicks off their tournament on April 2 at 7:30 pm at Scotiabank Place when they take on Team USA. A gold medal rematch in game one is never an easy way to open your tournament and Canada will be looking for the fan support to play a deciding role.

"Opening night, April 2, get out and support your team," said Leeder. "It's Team Canada vs. Team USA to kick off the event and it's one of the big rivalries in all of hockey and we'd love to have a full building cheering on our girls as they take on Team USA."

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