On Monday, August 15, Team Canada will begin their Olympic Orientation camp in Vancouver at General Motors Place. Then following an off day, the group will travel to Kelowna, B.C. for ice sessions on August 17th, 18th and 19th. This is will the first step in deciding who represents Canada at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. The practices are such big news in the great white north that tickets will be sold for both events.
Representing the Sharks during the camp will be Captain Patrick Marleau
and defenseman Scott Hannan, both veterans of the recent World Cup of Hockey last August and the World Championships of Hockey last spring.
Unlike a year or two ago for Marleau and Hannan, they are no longer new comers to being considered among the best in the world.
"Going in and having experience at these events and knowing the other players, it makes it more comforting and puts you much more at ease on the ice," said Marleau.
Most players reaching this level have a highly acclaimed junior career at the very least, but the world stage is another level.
"Maybe you're little tentative at first, but that goes away when you on the ice," said Marleau. "I grew up idolizing Mario Lemieux and the first time you go down on a two-on-one with him, it is pretty special. You get over it quick or you will look like you don't belong."
Now the Sharks duo is friends with many of those same players.
"I've played with some of these guys three or four times," said Marleau. "It's nice to get back and see them."
Not that being on the previous national team or even being invited to the camp means any player is guaranteed a spot in Italy. Team Canada has 36 players in camp and that number will be trimmed down to 23.
"I think the main purpose of the camp is to see how we mesh together, but the real test is having a good NHL season," said Marleau. "Still, this is a tryout and you've got to give it your all when you're given the chance."
As usual, Team Canada will be considered a favorite and with that, the pressure of an entire nation can fall to the 23 selected players.
"Any time you're labeled the favorite, that is pressure, but most of the guys on a team like this are here because they've thrived under pressure," said Marleau.
The NHLers are glad that the league will interrupt the season to allow for the Olympic experience.
"Its right up there with the Stanley Cup," said Marleau. "I don't know if it is harder to win, but you only get an Olympic chance every four years. They are both important. With one you play with the best players in the world and with the other, you win with the team you bonded with all season."
For Sharks fans, it might not be a big stretch to see Hannan and Marleau with a gold medal and a Stanley Cup in 2005-06.
Below is a look at the entire roster attending Canada's orientation camp.
St- Louis, Martin