CALGARY – Bragging rights will be on the line during Thursday night’s Red-White scrimmage at the Pengrowth Saddledome which will mark the end of Team Canada’s four-day orientation camp.
“Players, they won’t necessarily be going out full bore physical, but they’ll be competitive out there,” said Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla, who will suit up for Team White. “Nobody wants to get beat. You want your line to do well, you want to do well and have a good showing. It’s just a natural competitiveness.”
Defenceman Jay Bouwmeester, who signed with the Flames in the off-season, will also play for Team White, while fellow Calgary blue-liners Robyn Regehr and Dion Phaneuf will line up as members of Team Red.
“There’s a lot of guys on the same team that are split up, so that makes it kind of interesting,” Bouwmeester said. “Guys will have fun with it. It’s not like a real game. When you get guys like this together it’s going to be good hockey.”
Veteran Team Canada defenceman Chris Pronger, an off-season acquisition of the Philadelphia Flyers, said he’s definitely like to help Team Red beat Team White, which features his new captain Mike Richards in addition to former Anaheim Ducks teammates Scott Niedermayer and Francois Beauchemin.
“Scotty’s on the other side, Beauch is over there so you can always hold bragging rights over somebody if you win a game,” Pronger said.
POSSIBLE INSIDE TRACK?: Dan Cleary may have an inside track on earning a spot on Team Canada seeing as how Mike Babcock will coach the squad.
Cleary has salvaged his career playing for the Detroit Red Wings under Babcock for the past four seasons.
“This is one of my more prouder moments, that’s for sure,” said Cleary of being asked to attend the Canadian Olympic orientation camp. “I’m pretty happy to kind of turn myself around in my career and to get a chance to come here is great.”
Cleary also has an advantage in that he’s familiar with all the drills Babcock has been running this week in Calgary.
“This is exactly how we play and I know it very well,” said the 30-year-old native of Carbonear, N.L. “Hopefully it gives me a slight advantage.”
Babcock said Cleary isn’t out of place among the best hockey talent that Canada has to offer.
“You just look at the playoffs and the amount of scoring he does and how he plays with and without the puck, to me he’s just a real smart hockey player and gets things done,” Babcock said.
HITCHCOCK HAPPY WITH ROLE: Ken Hitchcock doesn’t feel like he’s always a bridesmaid and never the bride.
He served as an assistant coach on Canada’s last two Olympic men’s hockey teams, as well as the 2004 World Cup team, yet Hitchcock didn’t expect to inherit the role of head coach of the 2010 Olympic team that ultimately went to Mike Babcock.
The 57-year-old from Edmonton pointed out during orientation camp this week that Babcock has coached Detroit in the last two Stanley Cup finals and won one of them.
“I don’t think you can be the head coach unless you’ve been in a recent winning program,” Hitchcock explained. “I don’t think it’s fair. Really, the last time I was in a conference final was just before the lockout.”
That was with Philadelphia, where he was behind the bench for just over three seasons before heading to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history this year.
Hitchcock will join Buffalo’s Lindy Ruff and New Jersey’s Jacques Lemaire as Babcock’s support staff at the Olympics in Vancouver. Ruff is in charge of the power play and Lemaire is overseeing the penalty kill.
In addition to being in charge of pre-scouting and post-scouting the other teams, Hitchcock will be Canada’s eye in the sky from the press box in Vancouver.
“I know why I’m here,” Hitchcock said. “To bring experience from ’02, ’04 and ’06, which I think can be really valuable”.
“But in fairness, you’ve got to bring people that have that recent experience of intense competition.”
PICTURE THIS: The 44 players invited to orientation camp, the 26 players currently on the Canadian women’s hockey team and the national sledge hockey team gathered on the Pengrowth Saddledome ice for a massive team photo Wednesday.
It was a unique scene with a stream of Canadian jerseys pouring onto the ice, led by the sledge hockey team paddling to their sleds to the centre-ice logo.
The sledge hockey team will attempt to defend its gold medal at the Paralympic Games following the Olympics next February in Vancouver.
“We are three teams under Hockey Canada’s umbrella and we are going to spend some time together over the next couple of days in receptions and things like that to get to know each other,” women’s team captain Hayley Wickenheiser said.
“That’s important because we’re trying to win three gold medals for Canada and we can all help each other. Everyone has different experiences you can count on. We have some women on our team that have been in more Olympic Games than some of the men.”
ROSTER PREDICTOR: Canadians can play the role of general manager of Team Canada leading up to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
Fans can access the Fantasy Hockey 2010: Roster Predictor at CTVOlympics.ca and RDSolympiques.ca where they will be able to try and predict the final 23-man roster of Team Canada. Choosing from a list of Canada’s top hockey talent, fans can draft three goalies, seven defencemen and 12 forwards. In addition, they can select one ‘swing-slot’ player as an extra skater at each position.
Prizes donated by Olympic partner Samsung are up for grabs including the grand prize of a 50-inch Plasma HDTV. Canada’s roster will be announced in mid-December and the contest closes on Dec. 13, so log on to see how accurately you can predict the final squad.