CALGARY- Day one of Team Canada’s Olympic Orientation Camp was held at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Canada Olympic Park today. The first day consisted of a press conference with the Canadian Olympic team administration staff, coaching staff and select players.
During the press conference, one could get an idea about the direction Team Canada is headed in their selection process. Fast, smart and skilled on the larger ice of the European game are all qualities that Canada is looking for.
“Foot-speed along with puck moving ability for all players,” said Edmonton Oilers President of Hockey Operations and member of Team Canada’s management group, Kevin Lowe. “You have to be able to skate and you have to be able to move the puck. We’ve seen that time and time again. We saw it in ’06 and watching the World Championships the last couple of years and it’s quite evident.
“The team will be made up of players who can skate and think and move the puck and there could be a number of changes from the Gold Medal team in 2010 and Vancouver.”
Members of the Team Canada staff will look to learn lessons from the past, but put a different, fast, intelligent team on the ice in Sochi and that means there will be turnover from past squads.
“I guess if I look at the 2010 group, there’s a natural turnover with some players being retired,” Team Canada General Manager, Steve Yzerman said. “That’s going to force us to bring in some new faces… We’re not just going to take the 14 fastest forwards and the eight fastest defencemen. Hockey sense is probably the most important aspect a guy can have, particularly playing at a really high level. You’re playing with good guys around you. Really, the guys that don’t have the hockey sense it really stands out.
“I think it’s fair to say though; it’s above average to good skaters. Where the cut-off is, I’m not sure. But there’s going to be some players on this team that are just simply too good to leave off and you wouldn’t consider them as racehorses.”
The staff wishes to mold a roster that is able to compete on a larger, European sheet of ice and to do that, they continued to press the need for speed and intelligence.
“Speed, agility and if you don’t have those, then smarts is at a premium,” Associate Coach Ken Hitchcock said. “I think all of us recognizes that moving forward with our evaluation. Those things are going to be critical at looking at the players. If you’re not quick and agile, you’re going to have to be a brilliant player to be able to play this type of game.”
Team Canada head coach, Mike Babcock took a more direct approach in describing the team he wishes to bring to Russia.
“It’s the guys that play the best that are going to be on the team,” said Babcock. “The guys that can skate, the guys that take care of the puck, the guys that play 200-feet are going to play for us. So obviously, this isn’t an evaluation camp at all. This is an opportunity to get to know one-another, to get some details on how we’re going to play and to understand what it’s going to take to be on the team.
“I don’t even know what the drop-dead date is, to tell you the truth, and who’s ever playing the best is on the team.”
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