WORLD CUP OF HOCKEY
Team Canada GM Doug Armstrong hopes for more hockey magic at World Cup
Canada's Sidney Crosby celebrates scoring the winning goal during overtime in the men's Olympic hockey gold medal game against the U.S. in Vancouver on Feb. 28, 2010. (Andre Forget/Postmedia Network/Files)
They are Team Canada moments frozen in time and entrenched in our memories:
- Paul Henderson’s dramatic goal to win the 1972 Summit Series vs. the Russians.
- Wayne Gretzky’s feed to Mario Lemieux, who fired home the winning goal with 1:26 left to give the country a 6-5 victory over Russia in the 1987 Canada Cup in Hamilton.
- Joe Sakic’s four-point effort on Feb. 24, 2002 in Salt Lake City to lead the country to a 5-2 victory over Team USA to capture the gold medal at the Winter Olympics.
- And, of course, who can forget Sidney Crosby’s golden goal on Feb. 28, 2010 to break a 2-2 tie to give Canada the Olympic gold medal on home soil in Vancouver.
Every goal has its own story.
As the 23 players chosen for Team Canada report for training camp Monday at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa to participate in the World Cup of Hockey that gets under way Sept. 17th at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, this group of players is hoping to make more memories in a tournament that has been surrounded by its share of skepticism.
The reality is once the puck is dropped it’ll be all the best players in the world -- with the exception of a few injury situations -- going head-to-head that should produce, by all accounts, a pretty strong competition.
“You’re getting everybody coming in rested and in a great frame of mind in a sense that they’re excited,” Team Canada GM Doug Armstrong told Postmedia in a recent telephone interview from St. Louis. “I think every time the competition starts and you get to play rivals ... it’s going to be interesting playing the World Team and the 23-and-under team.
“Anytime you play the U.S., Russians, Finns or Czechs, you know what to expect, but we’re not as familiar but there’s a little bit of a new dynamics (with those) other (two teams). They’re all proud people participating in this event. We know we’re going there to win and everybody else is going there to win. I think it’s going to be great hockey.
“I believe the intensity is going to be at a high level quickly.”
Canada won’t waste any time once the players report. Medicals will be done Sunday, there will be a team meeting at the hotel at night and the players will hit the ice under the watchful eye of Toronto Maple Leafs’ coach Mike Babcock on Labour Day at noon in Ottawa to start building what they hope will be a winning combination in early October.
The decision was made not to get together for a couple of days of meetings last month -- like some countries did -- because they felt with short summers and no ability to put the players on the ice it made sense to just have everybody get together at camp.
“The training camp and exhibition games is something they don’t have at the Olympics. You just jump right into it,” Armstrong said. “We felt with the camp and exhibition games the players will show up ready to work and we’ll accomplish what we need to without disrupting everybody's summer plans for a two-day meeting.”
With back-to-back exhibition games against Team USA next Friday in Columbus and Saturday in Ottawa, the competition is going to ramp up quickly.
“What we’re going to find out after that second exhibition game is that it’s going to be ‘Game On’,” Armstrong said.
One player the group doesn’t have any concerns about is Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price. He missed almost all of last season with a knee injury but Armstrong has gotten regular updates from Habs GM Marc Bergevin, a member of the Canadian staff, and is confident Price is fully healed.
“We’ve been on top of this for awhile,” said Armstrong. “He ended the season what he felt was healthy and he’s been training all summer and he’s in great shape.
“He’ll be 100% ready to go on Sept. 5th when we jump on the ice.”
Armstrong along with the rest of the staff got together in July at Predator Ridge in B.C. to discuss every aspect of training camp and preparations for the tournament. The coaching staff -- which includes Claude Julien (Boston), Barry Trotz (Washington), Joel Quenneville (Chicago) and Bill Peters (Carolina) -- were part of those talks.
Team Canada officials felt that was important in building togetherness quickly.
“We’re excited about the whole process,” Armstrong said. “Getting the coaches involved has been really important in picking the 16 (players) and the rest of the team. We had a really good meeting in British Columbia where we went over the process we’re going to use for pre-scouting and had some good interaction with the coaches.
“From a management perspective, we have the players and we believe we have some of the top coaches in the game on our staff. We’ve given them the keys to the car basically. We’re really excited about the tournament. The competition is going to be as great as ever -- just with the addition of the two new teams -- and how quickly every game matters.
“That round-robin is going to be over as quickly as it starts for a couple of those teams and we don’t want to be one of those teams.”
Organizers are hoping this tournament can have the same cachet as the Canada Cup did when it ended in 1987 and Armstrong believes that possibility exists.
“I hope it can be,” Armstrong said. “I think that’s the NHL and the Players’ Association are hoping it can be. Once you get best-on-best, the competitive juices flow.
“We all remember Mario and Wayne. That’s imprinted in our generation’s mind. We’re hoping like the Crosby goal in Vancouver, there is going to be something in this tournament that’s going to be the staple of it moving forward. We just hope on the right side of the images to propel this tournament to the level we think it can get to.”
The work begins in earnest in the nation’s capital Monday at noon.
Not tinkering with winning formula
Team Canada is trying to build off its winning formula from the past.
After winning gold medals in 2010 in Vancouver and at 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, GM Doug Armstrong took a lot of what he learned from being part of building those teams when he sat down with his group to put together the roster for this month’s World Cup of Hockey.
“We’ve tried to work off past experiences,” Armstrong said. “I was fortunate enough to work for Steve Yzerman at 2010 and 2014 Olympics and I’ve talked to Wayne Gretzky about putting his teams together.
“At the end of the day, what we want: You’re obviously always concerned about positions and you want as many players playing their natural positions. But we wanted to take the most talented group we can and then feel the hockey sense was going to allow these guys -- if they had to go from a natural centre to wing or right wing to left wing -- they’d have the ability (to make that change).”
Good players understand what it takes to win.
“Better players adjust really quickly,” Armstrong noted. “It’s the hockey IQ that really steps up and shows itself in the practises.
“You get top-end players with top-end hockey IQ’s playing with each other and the puck just seems to be magical because it follows these guys around. We want to play to our strength which is our hockey sense and our skill level.”
The key for Canada is to dictate and initiate which is why they didn’t start putting together a roster by position and, instead, took the best players available.
“What we’re going to try to do is go four highly-skilled lines up front and then make other teams adjust to us,” said Armstrong. “We had success doing that in the last two Olympics and we didn’t want to deviate a lot from that gameplan. We weren’t looking to bring in players that are descript for one thing -- a penalty killer or a shutdown player.
“We just want to play. We want to play with tempo and we want to set the guidelines on how the game is going to be played.”
# Pos. Name Team
1 G Carey Price Montreal Canadiens
4 D Jay Bouwmeester, St. Louis Blues
6 D Shea Weber ‘A’ Montreal Canadens
7 D Jake Muzzin Los Angeles Kings
8 D Drew Doughty Los Angeles Kings
9 F Matt Duchene Colorado Avalanche
15 F Ryan Getzlaf Anaheim Ducks
16 F Jonathan Toews ‘A’ Chicago Blackhawks
19 F Tyler Seguin Dallas Stars
20 F John Tavares New York Islanders
27 D Alex Pietrangelo St. Louis Blues
28 F Claude Giroux Philadelphia Flyes
37 F Patrice Bergeron Boston Bruins
39 F Logan Couture San Jose Sharks
44 D Marc-Edouard Vlasic San Jose Sharks
50 G Corey Crawford Chicago Blackhawks
63 F Brad Marchand Boston Bruins
70 G Braden Holtby Washington Capitals
87 F Sidney Crosby ‘C’ Pittsburgh Penguins
88 D Brent Burns San Jose Sharks
91 F Steven Stamkos Tampa Bay Lightning
97 F Joe Thornton San Jose Sharks
-- F Corey Perry Anaheim Ducks
GM Doug Armstrong (St. Louis). Assistants: Ken Holland (Detroit), Marc Bergevin (Montreal), Rob Blake (Los Angeles) and Bob Murray (Anaheim).
Head coach: Mike Babcock (Toronto). Assistants: Claude Julien (Boston), Joel Quenneville (Chicago), Bill Peters (Carolina) and Barry Trotz (Washington).