CALGARY, AB -- The Road to Nagano leads through Saskatchewan for Canada's Women's Olympic Hockey Team this week as they head to Saskatoon, Regina and Melfort for a three-game series against the Swedish National Women's Team.
It's the first road trip for Team Canada, which will play a 27-game pre-Olympic schedule as it prepares for the first-ever Women's Olympic Ice Hockey Tournament in Nagano, Japan from February 8-17. Canada, the four-time Women's World Hockey Champions, are seeded first in the Olympic tournament, while Sweden is seeded fifth in the six-team tournament.
It's also the first time Team Canada has ever played any games in Saskatchewan. The Women's Olympic Team will play the Swedes in Saskatoon at Saskatchewan Place on Friday, Oct. 17, at the Agridome in Regina on Sunday, Oct. 19 and on Monday, Oct. 20 at the Northern Lights Palace in Melfort.
"Leading our team into my home province and my home town is going to be a proud and exciting experience for me," said Miller. "This tour is, first and foremost, part of the process of selecting the 20 players who will represent Canada at the Winter Games, but it's also an outstanding opportunity to promote our sport."
Miller is among a strong Saskatchewan-born contingent on Team Canada. Forward Hayley Wickenheiser was born in Shaunavon, Dana Antal is from Esterhazy, defender Fiona Smith is a native of Edam, while defender Carol Scheibel is from Wilcox.
On Saturday, Oct. 18 Team Canada will visit Wilcox, and the Notre Dame College Campus, where 11 of the players will skate from 4:00 - 4:45 p.m. and the team will hold an autograph session beginning at 6:15 p.m.
"Playing with Team Canada and going to Saskatchewan is like a dream come true," said Scheibel, 20, who played four years for the midget girls' team at Notre Dame, home of the Hounds. "It's always exciting to play in front of family and friends and the tour will help promote women's hockey in the province among the younger players.
"It will certainly give them something to strive for."
As well, Team Canada will conduct coaching clinics before the games in Saskatoon and Regina, featuring a coach from Team Sweden and two of the three members of Team Canada's coaching staff.
Canada has a 2-0 won-lost record so far, following a pair of victories (6-2 and 3-0) over the Chinese National Women's Team last week at Father David Bauer Arena in Calgary, where Team Canada is based for its five-month run up to the Winter Olympics in Nagano. Canada will play 12 games against Team USA during its pre-Olympic preparation, as well as travel to Finland to compete in a Three Nations' Tournament against Sweden and Finland in November, and to Lake Placid, NY in December for the 3 Nations' Cup against Team USA and Finland.
Miller's team will travel to Saskatchewan with 24 of the 28 Olympic hopefuls along for the tour. Veterans Cassie Campbell, Vicky Sunohara and Lesley Reddon, along with rookie Kathy McCormack, remained in Calgary. Reddon, who backstopped Canada to its fourth straight gold medal at the Women's World Championship in Kitchener, ON last April, will work out with Canada's Men's National Team over the weekend, while Campbell, Sunohara and McCormack will train with the Olympic Oval High Performance Women's Hockey program, which operates out of the University of Calgary.
The Canadian Women's Olympic Team returns to Calgary on Tuesday, Oct. 21 and will practise for two days before departing for Salt Lake City where they will play their first of 12 pre-Olympic games against Team USA as part of the United States Olympic Committee's Nagano Orientation weekend.