CALGARY, Alta. -- Canada's National Hockey Team wraps up its 1996-97 season with a 10-game tour of Newfoundland and Atlantic Canada, including a first-ever Team Canada visit to Labrador, Canadian Hockey announced on Tuesday.
The tour will include a three-game series against the Czech Republic in Corner Brook, Grand Falls and Harbour Grace, the Cabot Cup tournament in St. John's involving Canada, Germany and the Czech Republic, and a four-game set against the German national team in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador, as well as Bathurst, N.B. and Amherst, N.S.
'This will be our last chance to evaluate our players before the World Hockey Championship (in Helsinki and Turku, Finland),' said Mike Johnston, Team Canada general manager and associate coach. 'We'll be playing two teams that beat Canada at the World Championship last year, including the Czechs, who won that tournament.
'So the quality of competition will be very high.'
The Germans are coached by George Kingston, who was the head coach of Team Canada when it won a gold medal at the 1994 World Hockey Championship in Bolzano, Italy, the first world title for Canada since 1961. Kingston coached the Germans in the inaugural World Cup of Hockey last September.
The Czech Republic team is coached by longtime Czech national team star, and ex-NHL player Ivan Hlinka. For both the Germans and the Czechs, the Newfoundland tour is an important tune-up for the World Championship.
As it normally does, Team Canada will coordinate clinics for coaches, trainers and officials during the tour and involve youngsters in the popular Experience a Dream program. Young players get to wear Team Canada's colors, skate with the team during the pre-game warm-up and sit on the bench during the games as part of the National Team's ongoing work to connect with the communities it visits across Canada.
'From the point of view of personal experience, our players and staff -- few of whom have ever been to Newfoundland -- are very excited about visiting all the communities on our itinerary,' said Johnston. 'From that point of view , it should be one of the highlights of our season.'
Another highlight for both Johnston and head coach Andy Murray will be the World Hockey Championship in Finland from April 26 to May 14. Both will lead Canada to that tournament, at which Canada has finished first, third and second in the last three years.
The tour will provide them with a close look at two of the countries Canada will compete against in Finland as Canada tries for a fourth straight visit to the medal podium.
TEAM CANADA NEWFOUNDLAND TOUR
Czech Republic Tour
March 23 Canada vs Czech Republic 7:00pm Corner Brook
March 24 Canada vs Czech Republic 7:00pm Grand Falls
March 26 Canada vs Czech Republic 7:30pm Harbour Grace
March 27 Canada vs Germany 7:30pm St. John's
March 28 Germany vs Czech Republic 7:30pm St. John's
March 29 Canada vs Czech Republic 7:30pm St. John's
March 30 Final Game 3:00pm St. John's
April 1 Canada vs Germany 7:00pm Happy Valley
April 2 Canada vs Germany 7:00pm Happy Valley
April 4 Canada vs Germany 7:00pm Bathurst
April 5 Canada vs Germany 7:30pm Amherst