Monday, August 24, 2009

A hockey appetizer to tide you over 'till mid September

I am off to the land of all things Leafs tomorrow for two days and will sadly be missing out on the media circus that will undoubtably be Team Canada's orientation camp. I can just imagine the awkward conversation between Danny Heatley and Jason Spezza taking place as I write this; the last remaining dregs of playoff bitterness ebbing away between Sidney Crosby and Dan Cleary, Eric Staal and Milan Lucic, and Jarome Iginla and Jonathan Toews as they prepare to come together in pursuit of that elusive Olympic gold six months from now. For those of us who aren't lucky enough to be among the 170 accredited media attending this week's camp, here are a few pictures from this evening's practice courtesy of  the Twitter page of Boomer from The Fan 960. 

The Dome is ready on Twitpic
The Dome

First on-ice session on Twitpic

Nash, Morrow and Sid stretch it out. on Twitpic
Stretching...if you look really closely, you can see Simon Gagne grimacing as he pulls his groin

A sweaty Vinny on Twitpic

In the dark with Ryan Smyth on Twitpic

On the first day of practice, Iginla skated on a line with Crosby and Nash, Phaneuf was paired with Dallas' Stephane Robidas, Regehr with Chicago's Brent Seabrook, and Bouwmeester with Brent Burns of the Wild. The line of Nash-Crosby-Iginla could very possibly hit the ice come February. Along with everyone else in this great nation, I have been fiddling with my own Team Canada roster, and it's not an easy process. Stevie Y has an intimidating task ahead of him, no matter how hard he tries to downplay the pressure to win on home turf. 

The fact that Canada has failed to earn gold in any sport in two Olympic games at home has been the elephant in the room ever since Vancouver's winning bid was announced, and although Canada's overall performance at the 2006 winter games was encouraging and results since then have been promising, it's not going to get any easier. Team USA has already proclaimed themselves the tournament underdog and it's no secret Russia is an offensive juggernaut, while Sweden, Finland, and the Czechs are always a threat. Regardless of the final roster, Team Canada will have to use Turin's disappointing 7th place finish as motivation to avoid a similar fate. 

The situation is ripe for an upset, and if led by the right group of players, this relatively young team should be able to manage the pressure and prove why they belong atop of the hockey world once again. 

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