CALGARY, ALBERTA – Hockey Canada announced on Wednesday its plans, timelines and options for Canada's three national teams that are preparing for and will be participating at the 2006 Winter Olympic and 2006 Paralympic Games in Turin, Italy, February 10-26, 2006, in women's hockey, sledge hockey and men's hockey.
"With just 471 days until the 2006 Winter Games begin in Torino, the preparation of Canada's three hockey teams (women's, sledge and men's) continues to be a primary focus, " said Bob Nicholson, President, Hockey Canada. "While Hockey Canada is hopeful that NHL players will participate in the 2006 Olympics in Torino we are exploring secondary plans and reviewing various options should this not become a reality.”
Canada's National Women's Hockey Team
Canada is the defending Olympic champions in women's hockey, winning Olympic gold in Salt Lake City in 2002. Canada has also won all 8 World Women's Hockey Championships ever held, including the 2004 Worlds in Halifax.
- Hockey Canada announced this summer the coaching staff (Head Coach Melody Davidson, assistant coaches Tim Bothwell and Margot Page) that will lead Canada's National Women's Team at both the 2005 IIHF World Women's Championship and the 2006 Winter Olympic Games.
- Just as the team did in the previous Olympic seasons in 1997-1998, and 2001-2002, Canada's National Women's Team will train as a full-time team beginning in August, 2005 and will be based in Calgary, AB at the Father David Bauer Olympic Arena.
Canada's National Sledge Hockey Team
Sledge Hockey, which has been an associate member of Hockey Canada since 1993, was approved by Hockey Canada's Board of Directors as a full member of Hockey Canada at its Annual General Meeting in May, 2004. With that decision, Canada's National Sledge Hockey Team that will participate at the 2006 Paralympic Games in Italy falls under the supervision and direction of Hockey Canada. Canada's National Sledge Hockey Team won the 2000 World Championship, and finished fourth at the 2004 World Championship in Sweden. The National Sledge Hockey Team has also established themselves internationally as the silver medal winners at the 1998 Nagano Paralympic Games and finished 4th at the 2002 Salt Lake City Paralympic Games.
- Meetings are planned in early November in Calgary between Hockey Canada and Sledge Hockey's staff to layout plans for the road to 2006
Canada's National Men's Hockey Team
Canada's National Men's Hockey Team, which was run as a ‘full-time' team from 1963-68 and 1983-2000, gave Canada a presence at major international events, was a development program for players moving on to sign NHL, minor league and international contracts, and give players the opportunity to travel the world and represent their country. Canada's ‘full-time' National Team participated in the Winter Olympic Games in 1980 through 1994, winning silver medals in 1992 and 1994.
National Hockey League players represented Canada at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan (4th place) and the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City (gold medal).
Hockey Canada made the decision after the 1999-2000 season to switch from a ‘full-time' National Men's team, the only one of its kind in the world at that point in time, to a ‘part-time' team. Since the start of the 2000-2001 season, Hockey Canada has operated this ‘part-time' team effectively – utilizing Canadian players playing full-time with European club teams in Europe and minor pro players from North American leagues that are put together to represent Canada on the international stage at major European tournaments such as the Spengler Cup, Sweden Games, Deutschland Cup, Loto Cup and Swiss Cup. As a part-time team, Canada won the prestigious Spengler Cup in 2002 and 2003.
Hockey Canada has began its preparations for various scenarios for its men's hockey team program over the next 16 months:
- On June 23, 2004, Hockey Canada named Marc Habscheid as its Head Coach of Canada's National Men's Team for a three-year term (through to 2007). Habscheid has the duty of Head Coach of Canada's ‘part-time' National Men's Team at all 2004-2005 international hockey events that the team participates in (Deutschland Cup, Spengler Cup, Loto Cup, and Hungary Cup), including the 2005 and 2006 Men's World Hockey Championships. Habscheid will play a key role with the coaching staff for Canada's Men's Hockey Team at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy. His exact position is subject to NHL/NHLPA participation at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games.
- Canada will continue to operate a ‘part-time' team during the 2004-2005 season, participating at the following international events utilizing Canadian players playing in Europe and some AHL players from North America. Habscheid has spent the past few weeks traveling Europe scouting and evaluating Canadian players, and will continue to make scouting trips to Europe and North America during the season.
Timeline: November 1, 2004 – January 15, 2005
- Due to the uncertainty of NHL players participating at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Italy, Hockey Canada has made the decision to not use Canadian-born players that played in the NHL or were under NHL contract during the 2003-2004 season for the following events:
- Swiss Challenge (Krevzlingen, SUI – November 9, 2004)
- Deutschland Cup (Hannover, GER – November 10-14, 2004)
- Loto Cup (Piestany, Slovakia – December 14-18, 2004)
- Spengler Cup (Davos, SUI – December 26-31, 2004)
The exception would be players that were NHL free-agents after the 2003-2004 season, and signed contracts to play in Europe for the entire 2004-2005 season, or players that were assigned to minor leagues by their NHL team for the 2004-2005 season.
This decision allows Habscheid to evaluate Canadian-born players playing in Europe as possible candidates for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, if there was to be no NHL participation.
Timeline: January 16 - March 31, 2005
- Hockey Canada will continue to monitor the labour negotiations between the NHL/NHLPA as it pertains to NHL participation at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games. Canada's National Men's team will participate at one international event (Hungarian Cup –February 7-13, 2005 in Budapest, Hungary). A decision to utilize Canadian-born players that played in the NHL or were under NHL contract during the 2003-2004 season will be made in January, with a focus on preparation and evaluation for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games
- Hockey Canada will name a Management staff for the 2005 IIHF World Hockey Championship, which takes place April 30-May 15, 2005 in Vienna, Austria
- Hockey Canada President Bob Nicholson, Vice-president Johnny Misley, Habscheid and the management staff for the 2005 men's worlds team will determine the make-up of Canada's team at the Men's Worlds, and the amount of NHL participation for Canada's team at this event – with a focus on preparation for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games.
Timeline: April 1-July 1, 2005
- Canada will participate at the 2005 IIHF Men's World Hockey Championship in Austria, and try to defend its back to back gold medal victories from 2003 and 2004. The make-up of Canada's roster for this event will be determined, but will be centered around the preparation and evaluation of players for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games
- Hockey Canada will make a decision on Canada's National Men's Team for the 2005-2006 season and the 2006 Winter Olympic Games that would include the following options:
- Full-time team, based in Calgary, AB, similar to what was run in 1994 and 1988, touring Canada and Europe playing other national teams and participating at major European events
- Part-time team, similar to what is currently being run by Hockey Canada. An Olympic team would be selected from this pool of Canadian-born players, and would gather for a period prior to the 2006 Olympic Games.