It's a great year to be a Canadian pair on ice. Jamie Sale and David Pellieter were the darlings of the Salt Lake Olympics, overcoming the adversity of impartial judging to fulfill their dream of being champions.
The 2003 IIHF World Junior Championships here in Halifax offer a chance for two new pairs of on-ice competitors to be crowned champions, as Carlo Colaiacovo and Matt Stajan as well as Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Pierre-Alex Parenteau are in a position to claim Gold for Canada.
Colaiacovo-Stajan and Bouchard-Parenteau have played hockey together at different levels since the age of 12, and both pairs are poised to realize the dream of playing with Team Canada together.
Colaiacovo and Stajan became teammates for the first time in bantam hockey, at the age of 14 and ascended the ranks of minor hockey together. Their stalwart junior careers parted ways at the junior level, when the two were drafted by different major-junior clubs in Erie and Belleville respectively. The two now face each other regularly in the Ontario hockey league, but are reunited here in Halifax at the Team Canada selection camp.
For Colaiacovo this is the second stint with the Canadian squad, as he played with last year=s silver medal team. Colaiacovo=s success from a year ago must sit fresh in the memory of Stajan who heard a lot about the experience from his longtime friend. Stajan certainly looked motivated in his first inter-squad game Thursday, pacing his side with a goal and two assists on route to a 5-4 victory.
For Colaiacovo and Stajan the 2003 tournament could be a chance to gain glory along side one another, however, the two may receive more opportunities to play together in the future. Both players were drafted by the National Hockey League=s Toronto Maple Leafs. For Colaiacovo, the idea of playing with Stajan at this tournament is described as Areally great.@ When asked if he has offered his friend any pointers about playing for Team Canada, Colaiacovo responded, AI really want him to make the team, I try to keep him as calm and cool as possible, because he has the ability to have a great tournament. Stajan's scoring knack is not in question, as he has amassed 50 points in 28 games this season with his home club, the Belleville Bulls.
Parenteau and Bouchard joined forces for the first time at age 12 in peewee hockey, and like Colaiacovo and Stajan they ascended the minor hockey ranks together.
Both gifted scorers, Parenteau and Bouchard had the privilege of being drafted by the same major-junior team in Chicoutimi. They played alongside one another last season with the Sagueneens, collecting a combined 182 points. This season the two have been separated, as Bouchard has spent the first part of the season in the NHL with the league=s Minnesota Wild.
Although not playing alongside one another this season, both players are having an impact on their respective teams.
Bouchard is receiving about 13 minutes of ice-time per game in his inaugural NHL season, and has responded thus far with five points. Parenteau has notched 55 points in 31 games with Chicoutimi, and is leading the team with his offensive abilities. Despite being the younger of the two, Bouchard=s offensive skills have allowed him to make the jump to the pro-level quicker than Parenteau, although he is quick to point out his friend=s offensive capabilities. AHe is a great player, and he can score a lot of goals,= Bouchard noted, adding, >it would be very good to have him on this team.
With time to prepare for the tournament scarce, Head Coach Marc Habscheid could benefit from the familiarity both sets of players have with each other. AChemistry is always part of it,= expressed Habscheid, >we=ll see who makes it and take it from there,@ sticking to the team=s philosophy that whoever plays best in the selection camp will take to the ice for Canada on Boxing Day.
For Colaiacovo and Stajan, Parenteau and Bouchard, the 2003 IIHF World Championships could be another chapter in their hockey careers they get to brave together. The four have demonstrated the qualities necessary to get to this level, but now each must earn his spot on the team, and the right to play with for Team Canada. Both pairs symbolize a dream shared by young players all over the world; side-by-side with a lifelong friend, representing the dreams and aspirations of both the self and the nation.