Taylor Hall and the rest of Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team got a feel for the ice at Zimny Stadion in Piestany on Friday, as Canada held its first practice in preparation for the 2008 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament.
Canada was scheduled to practise on Thursday evening, but several of the team’s stick bags failed to make the flight to Vienna, Austria. The players made the best of the situation as, rather than working on their skating and shooting, they played soccer in a park next to the stadium.
Still, there’s no place these guys would rather be than on the ice.
“It’s a lot different than North America,” says Hall, one of Canada’s four alternate captains. “The ice is pretty good and the facility is all right. It’s just a lot of change coming over. I think we’re pretty anxious to get on the ice again and then have the game (on Saturday).”
Canada will face the United States in pre-tournament action on Saturday.
Hall, who was born in Calgary and lived there until the age of 13, when his family moved to Kingston, ON, will be one of the leaders on this team. The forward is one of four players who helped Canada win gold at the 2008 IIHF World Under-18 Championship in April in Kazan, Russia.
“I don’t think my role has changed a lot,” Hall says. “I was with this team last April so maybe guys can look for pointers from me. I’m not really going to change my personality. I just want to be a good guy and set a good example on the ice.”
Canada will travel to Trnava for its game against the United States. On Sunday, it will play its second and final exhibition game versus the Czech Republic, one of the tournament hosts, in Breclav.
“They are ready,” says Bill Peters, Canada’s head coach. “They’ve done a good job coming in with the proper mindset. Their first goal was to make the hockey team and these 22 guys have done that. Now the next goal is to win the gold medal and, in order to do that, we’ve got to get our team game in shape and make sure we’re all on the same page.”