CALGARY, AB -- Twenty-eight players, including all 20 members of Canada's 1997 Women's World Hockey championship team, worked out Monday under the direction of head coach Shannon Miller as the National Women's Team Olympic Training Program began preparations for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan in February.
The training-camp roster includes four-time Women's World champions defenders Judy Diduck, of Sherwood Park, AB and Geraldine Heaney, of Weston, ON, as well as forwards Angela James of Thornhill, ON, France St-Louis of St-Hubert, QU, and Stacy Wilson of Salisbury, NB. Other candidates to play for Canada at the historic first Olympic Women's Ice Hockey Tournament next February are Hayley Wickenheiser of Calgary, Cassie Campbell of Brampton, ON, and goaltender Manon Rheaume, of Lac Beauport, QU. The roster includes 10 players from Ontario, seven from Quebec, four each from Alberta and New Brunswick, two from Saskatchewan and one from British Columbia.
Miller and assistant coaches Ray Bennett and Danièle Sauvageau will lead the players through a five-week training period before the club begins a 27-game schedule against international competition, including the national teams of Finland, China, Sweden and the United States.
"This is the beginning of the most exciting stage in the history of women's hockey in this country," said Miller, head coach of the 1997 World Championship team and an assistant coach of gold medal-winning teams in 19. "The players all have followed rigorous off-season training regimens and competition should be keen for the 20 roster spots on the Olympic team.
"The players all have made sacrifices to be here -- some of them taking leaves of absence from jobs, others interrupting their university studies. Starting now, we are all committed full-time to bringing an Olympic gold medal back to Canada from Nagano."
The Olympic opportunity comes just eight years after the first International Ice Hockey Federation-sanctioned Women's World Hockey Championship was held in Ottawa, ON. In November 1993, the IOC formally ratified the addition of women's ice hockey to the program of the Winter Olympic Games as a full medal sport.
Team Canada's five-month pre-Olympic schedule includes a seven-game tour of Finland in November and the second 3 Nations Cup in December in Lake Placid, NY against Finland and the USA, the second- and third-ranked teams in the world behind Canada.
The Canadian team will play 12 games against Team USA, including key matchups on Oct. 25 in Salt Lake City, as part of the U.S. Olympic Organizing Committee's kickoff to Nagano, January 16 in Vancouver as part of the National Hockey League's All-Star Weekend and January 26 at the Saddledome in Calgary, Team Canada's Olympic sendoff game. The club also will play in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes as part of a series of Canadian tours.
Throughout the pre-Olympic period, the players will use Calgary as a home base and the Royal Bank Canadian Hockey Centre at Father David Bauer Arena as their on-ice headquarters. The players assembled in Calgary in early September for the first time as a full-time, salaried National Team.
"As well as being a highly focused, extended training period leading to the Winter Games in Nagano, it also is the first opportunity Canadian Hockey has had to run a full-time, touring National Women's Team," said Bob Nicholson, Canadian Hockey's senior vice-president, Hockey Operations. "This is a learning experience for everyone involved and should help set the stage for a whole new era for female hockey in Canada."