First of all, on behalf of Canada's National Junior Team, a heartfelt Happy New Year to our friends, families and fans here in Sweden as well as back in Canada and all around the World. More and more, the players are sensing the support from back home through e-mails, TSN coverage and media coverage in general. Keep the e-mails coming - your best wishes and cheering are getting through loud and clear.
After closing out the round robin with a 3-0 win over Slovakia, the parents and families of Canada's National Junior Team players here in Sweden joined the players for a little post-game get-together at the team hotel. Chef Gass kept everyone happy with appetizers, cheese platters and the such to snack on prior to the New Year celebrations.
The families and friends left for their hotels and/or some New Year celebrations at about 7 pm (moments after watching USA beat Sweden in overtime). The team then was treated to a great New Year dinner, featuring prime rib, scalloped potatoes and carrots. Chef Gass continues to be very popular with the team, and everyone is eating very well.
The players and staff got to sleep in a bit on New Years Day. Just before lunch, it was time for the 'Hirsch Amazing Race', a game that had groups of players finding specific areas around the hotel and completing tasks. There were prizes and honour at stake, as the team in last place would be relegated to serving dinner to the top teams. Some of the tasks included navigating 'Huntsy's minefield', answering trivia questions about their Head Coach Craig Hartsburg, a team skiiing task and drinking a bottle of carbonated water (not the players' favourite water here in Sweden). While it was supposed to be a game played at a leisurely pace, the players used some loopholes and showed their competitive side.
On Tuesday, it will be back to work with an on-ice session and the coaches will be scouting the quarter-final games, and in particular the Finland-USA game which will be produce Canada's opponent in the semi-final. .
While in Leksand, Team Canada is staying at a local hotel that has been in this location for just over 100 years. Canada is occupying all 27 rooms in the main hotel and the four rooms in a secondary building. The hotel staff and owners have been more than accommodating, and the hotel has become a temporary home and somewhat of a satellite Canadian community for the three weeks that we are here.
As you arrive at the hotel, it is clear immediately that Team Canada is lodged here. A Canadian flag flies on a mast in front of the hotel, and three Canadian flags are draped over second floor balconies. Inside, it is much more like home than a hotel. A players' lounge is located on the first floor with a large screen TV with access to Canadian television over the internet. Just to the right of the players' lounge on the first level is the dining room.
With the objective of creating as comfortable and familiar environment as possible for the young Canadian players, Hockey Canada welcomed into the fold a new staff member this year: An actual Chef. Andrew Gass, an executive chef at the Metropolitan Grill in Calgary, was loaned to Hockey Canada by the owner of this Calgary restaurant, Jeff Hanna, for one of the busiest times of the season. 'The Gasser', as he is affectionnately known by friends and the members of Team Canada, has been assisted by Jonas, the hotel's chef, and their staff, in making great, healthy meals for the players as we strive to represently Canada proudly here in Sweden.
Most of the players are on one floor, with a couple exceptions at ground level. The staff is on the top floor, with a small lounge where coaches and staff have been watching games, breaking down video and preparing for opponents. It may not be home, but it sure feels like it.
On Thursday, an off-day, the IIHF took an official portrait of the team prior to a brisk 35 minute practice. Next up for Canada is Germany, the surprise of the 2007 World Juniors to date. The Germans have already defeated the U.S. and Slovakia and stand in second place behind Canada in Group A. Canada vs. Germany will be broadcast live on TSN and RDS, as well as on The Fan Radio Network.
Christmas Day was a travel day for Team Canada. The team's Christmas celebrations were on Christmas Eve as December 25th was a big transfer day for the team. The team embarked on a bus at 10 am and travelled four hours to get into Leksand, where Pool A will be competing during the 2007 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Leksand is a small resort town, near a number of ski hills and a popular vacation destination for Swedes. In fact, one of the reasons that Canada only moved into Leksand the day before the Championship was because the hotels were packed December 24th and there was no availability.
While Leksand only counts some 15,000 residents, it is known as a hockey-mad city with a professional team and a terrific arena. The training staff, comprised of equipment manager Tyler 'Slim' Broderson, athletic therapist Philippe Fait, asst. equipment manager Stephen Lines and Team Manager Scott Salmond arrived in Leksand the day before, so the dressing room and the hotel were all set up and ready for the players and staff upon their arrival.
The team had its first practice in Leksand on Monday afternoon. Several more media members for Canada have arrived for the World Juniors as the excitement and anticipation grows leading up to the first games on Tuesday.
Canada is housed in a local hotel in Leksand which has become a temporary Canada House. With Canadian players and staff taking over the hotel, the hotel staff has been more than accommodating. A Canadian flag has replaced the Swedish flag in front, a players lounge has satellite TV, internet access and snacks from back home. Nothing has been spared to make the players and staff feel at home in Leksand.
The journey begins in earnest on Tuesday, as Canada takes on the hosts from Sweden at 7 pm (Local time), 1 pm (Eastern Time). TSN goes on the air at 12:30 pm (ET) with a pre-game show and, along with RDS and The Fan Radio, will carry all of Canada's games live.
On behalf of the players, the coaches and the entire staff, Hockey Canada would like to wish a very Merry Christmas to the friends, families and fans of Canada's National Junior Team back home in Canada. While today, the team had a number of Christmas celebrations, we are all thinking of our friends and families back home today.
After breakfast, the team received their first Christmas gifts of the day ... directly from Santa Claus, who paid a surprise visit to our meal room. Thanks to the generosity of a number of Hockey Canada's sponsors and partners, the players and staff were all spoiled on this day. Each team member received:
It was back to work after our visit with Santa, with a full practice at a deserted Hovet Arena. A security guard helped us get the lights on, and a zamboni driver arrived just in time to prepare the ice.
In the evening, after dinner, the players had their own gift exchange. It was an opportunity for players to get some well-intentioned digs in on their teammates. Sam Gagner stood in for Santa and took the lead on distribution. Everyone enjoyed themselves and left the meeting room with a memory that will last a lifetime. Christmas with the National Junior Team. Christmas Day will be a moving day for Team Canada, as the team heads to its final destination: Leksand, Sweden. This will be the final full practice prior to starting the World Juniors against Sweden on December 26th.
After at least thirteen straight days on the days for the players on Canada's National Junior Team, Head Coach Craig Hartsburg gave the team a full day away from the rink on Saturday. With a number of players having come right from their busy club team schedule to the selection camp, rest was warranted after the grind that the team has been through over the past couple weeks.
The only player who took to the ice was defenceman Cody Franson who is recovering from a bruise to his hip and wanted to test himself even further. The pride of Sicamous, B.C. continues to make great progress and is getting much closer to being game-ready. Assistant coach Curtis Hunt pushed him hard on Saturday, and the signs are good for an upcomings return to action.
After some media interviews in the morning and a light lunch, the entire team jumped on a double-decker bus and were treated to a one-hour tour of Stockholm. Stockholm is rich in history and most of us learned quite a bit during the tour, which took us over several of Stockholm's amazing 57 total bridges.
The players were given some free time in downtown Stockholm to do some sightseeing and some shopping. Only one team-related task for each and every player: the 22 players drew names and took to the streets looking for gifts for each other. Given the laughs and grins on the bus ride afterwards, it sounds like Sunday evening's gift exchange will make for an entertaining evening.
The whole team were then treated to a splendid dinner in the Old downtown of Stockholm. Saturday will be Canada's final full day in Stockholm, before heading to Leksand for the World Junior Championship. The team will celebrate Christmas on December 24th (because Christmas Day is a travel day for the team), a day that will reportedly even feature a visit from Santa and a gift exchange. And, because Canada's National Junior Team does have a task at hand over the holiday season, Christmas celebrations will also include a practice.
There was no time to celebrate and relish an exhibition win over Finland on Wednesday night. Only hours later, the team was up and on its way to Stockholm for another step in the team's preparation for the World Junior Championship.
With an 8 am flight on Thursday morning, the wake-up call was set at 5:45 am and was followed by a quick and quiet breakfast. Most of the equipment was already at the airport with Team Manager Scott Salmond and Equipment Manager Tyler 'Slim' Broderson getting a head start on check-in. Once the bus transporting the players, the coaches and most of the support staff arrived, it was an easy process. Some fifteen minutes later, everyone was parading through security and on their way to the gate.
By air, Helsinki and Stockholm are only one hour apart. But with the time difference between the two countries, the team arrived in Stockholm at 8 am. After check-in at the Globen Hotel, the team set up shop in its new surroundings at the Hovet Arena, the second rink at Globen, where Hammarby plays professional hockey in the Swedish 2nd Division.
Practice was energetic and lively, with players excited to get back on the ice for the first time after a convincing win against Finland. With Sweden one of the pre-World Junior favourites, Friday's game promises to be an intense game despite the fact that it is an exhibition game. With a few free hours in the afternoon, many players and staff members walked through a mall that is across the walkway from the hotel.
After dinner, it was a movie night for the players. A meeting room at the hotel was transformed in a movie theater. Players were treated to some pizzas as well, and watched 'You, Me and Dupree'.
It's back to business on Friday, as Canada takes on Sweden in its final tune-up game at 7 pm (local time) in Stockholm. The game is also a tune-up game for Canada's opener at the World Juniors against the same Swedes.
After almost 19 hours traveling, players and staff took full advantage of Sunday evening to catch up on sleep and get ready for a first practice. On Monday morning, therapist Philippe Fait and Team Doctor Brian Benson took the players out for an off-ice workout. Vierumaki is a training facility for national athletes throughout Finland, so everything is available to training staff to prepare players for the upcoming World Juniors.
The coaches ran the players through a brisk one hour practice in the afternoon. Everyone took part, including Kris Russell who had been rested for part of the selection camp.
During time off, the players are making good use of the internet room, which has become the most popular room in the facility. With little phone access, e-mail is the most popular means of communications as players and staff look to stay in touch with family, friends and teammates and catch up on news on their teams back home.
The team was treated to another sauna in the evening in a Smoke House. All the players tried it out, but there were no brave souls willing to jump into the lake on this day.
Two practices are on the schedule for Monday. After Tuesday's morning practice, the team will depart for Helsinki and a first exhibition game on Wednesday, December 20th.
For the first time in three years, Canada's entry for the World Junior Championship headed overseas to battle for junior hockey supremacy. After a hectic Friday in Calgary, which included the final roster announcement, media availability, the team photo and shoots with TSN, the team embarked on late afternoon flight destined for Europe.
The past two World Junior Championships have been in North America (Grand Forks, ND in 2005, Vancouver in 2006) so travel has not been a big issue. But not so for the 2007 World Junior Championship. Players and staff were well-educated beforehand by Doctor Brian Benson on jetlag, and dealing with the time change of nine hours between Calgary and Finland.
The team's first flight arrived in Frankfurt at around lunch time (Germany time), 3 am (Calgary time). After a two hour wait and a quick bite to eat, it was off to Helsinki. A bus awaited the team outside the Helsinki Airport and brought the players and staff to Vierumaki, an internationally reknowned training centre with two rinks, training facilities and cabins to lodge athletes that are training there. Team Finland held the first part of its own training camp at this very facility only a few days ago.
After dinner, the long day and trip came to an end in a very 'Finnsh' way. All the players and staff took part in a Finnish tradition: a few minutes in the sauna, a quick dive into a freezing cold lake and a return to the sauna. (Some Team Canada members were even brave enough to make their way down to the lake a couple times) It was quite the way to put to an end to a very exciting and tiring day. Team Canada's players and staff will lodged in cabins for the next few days, prior to moving to Helsinki for Canada's first pre-competition game vs. Finland on December 20th. Canada then takes on Sweden on December 22nd in Stockholm, And with the two exhibition games in mind, and the World Juniors starting in less than ten days, it's back to work on Sunday for Team Canada, with an off-ice workout in the morning and the team's first practice as a group.
Following Wednesday night’s hard-fought and hard-hitting intersquad game, and the early morning release of 11 players, the remaining 28 World Junior hopefuls spoke with the media on Thursday morning, but did not take to the ice ahead of Thursday night’s final selection camp game.
Twenty-two of the remaining skaters will be on the ice for tonight’s game against a team of CIS All-Stars from the University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge, the last chance to impress head scout Jim Hammett, head coach Craig Hartsburg and the rest of the coaching staff before the National Junior Team is named on Friday morning.
All four remaining goaltenders will play in the final game, including Steve Mason (Oakville, ON/London, OHL) who will see his first action of the camp. Mason had been sidelined since the start of camp after experiencing concussion-like symptoms following a collision in his last game with the Knights’ on Saturday night.
Following Thursday night’s game, the coaching staff will pare down the roster, from the 28 that remain to the 22 that will travel to Sweden for the 2007 IIHF World Junior Championship, from December 26 to January 5.
Two goaltenders, two defensemen and two forwards will be released Friday morning, and the National Junior Team will leave for Europe on Friday afternoon.
The puck drops for tonight’s game at 5:00 p.m. at Father David Bauer Arena.
Monday was the first and only day of two-a-day practices for the 39 players at Canada’s World Junior selection camp, as they prepared to hit the ice in game action for the first time on Tuesday night. Goaltender Trevor Cann (Oakville, ON/Peterborough Petes, OHL) arrived in Calgary from Toronto at 1 a.m. on Monday morning, but joined his Team White teammates on the ice for their 9:30 a.m. practice. Cann and Team White will return to the ice for their evening session at 5:30, followed by Team Red at 7:00 p.m.Both teams will skate only once, on Tuesday morning, before the first intersquad game of the camp, which goes Tuesday night at 6:00 p.m. MT.
Monday morning’s practices were well attended, with media, scouts and fans filling Father David Bauer Arena. Even larger crowds are expected for the night practices, and the arena is expected to be packed for Tuesday night’s game, the first chance for the 39 hopefuls to impress the coaching staff in a game setting.