Canada’s World Championship Team assembled in Minsk, Belarus over the weekend in preparation of the 2006 IIHF Men’s World Championship which runs May 5-21, 2006 in Riga, Latvia.
Minsk is a city with a very rich history, including being entirely destroyed during the Second World War. The city was rebuilt afterwards and the downtown is mostly made up of buildings dating back to the post-war boom.
Most of the staff arrived on Friday and used the day to get settled in and to set up the dressing room at the rink. In the evening, the entire staff was treated to a dinner with the President of the Belarussian Ice Hockey Federation (who happens to be a Minister in the Belarussian government) as well as number of his colleagues. Belarus is very excited to be hosting Canada for this training camp. Banners are displayed everywhere in the city, and the Ice Hockey Federation expects large crowds to Canada’s practices as of Sunday. The game vs. Belarus on Tuesday has been sold out for weeks if not months, and the Federation will be setting up giant video screens in the main square to allow for more fans to take in the action.
The first large contingent of players, including eight of the nine NHLers, arrived on Saturday and held their first practice in the evening. Goaltender Marc Denis was the on the sidelines however, as his equipment and personal luggage did not make it to Minsk. In his place, a goaltender with the Belarussian national team, Stepan Goryachevskikh, joined Canada for the practice only moments after skating with the local side.
The five World Junior players are getting in on Sunday afternoon and will take place in their first practice Sunday evening. Canada faces Belarus on Tuesday and opens the World Championship on May 5th vs. Denmark.