With the city of Ottawa hosting the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championships, nothing less than a gold medal on home soil for Canada is acceptable. As the winter women’s training camp for Hockey Canada starts on Jan. 21, it is only appropriate that it is held in the same city.
Although expectations may be high, most of the attendees at the winter camp were from the Canadian squad that claimed gold at the 2012 IIHF Women’s Championships in Burlington, Vt. Team Canada prevailed in the gold medal game in dramatic fashion as Caroline Ouellette scored in overtime.
Two players attending the camp that were not part of the roster include Christina Kessler of the Toronto Furies (CWHL) and Jenelle Kohanchuk with the Boston University Terriers (NCAA – Hockey East). Living legends Hayley Wickenheiser, Kim St. Pierre and Cherie Piper were unable to attend.
With the absence of Wickenheiser, Kingston’s Jayna Hefford becomes the longest serving veteran attending the camp. Although she is the oldest player at the camp (born in 1977), Hefford ranks in the top 10 in the CWHL scoring race and has been involved in 40 percent of her club team’s (Brampton) offensive output.
An added benefit of the camp is that all but one of the attendees (Kohanchuk) competes in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. Therefore, all the players are familiar with each other’s skill and playing ability. The top three scorers in the CWHL are all attending the winter camp: Meghan Agosta-Marciano, Natalie Spooner, and Rebecca Johnston.
While there will be a training camp for the Women’s Worlds, the week long winter camp is more than an evaluation of talent, but an opportunity to plan ahead for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
The advent of the winter camp gives every indication that the future is now. Considering that the United States has not won a Winter Games gold medal since 1998, a gold medal at the 2013 Worlds would build momentum towards Sochi.
As the United States boast scoring juggernauts like Kelli Stack, Hilary Knight and the Lamoureux twins, the winter camp is of great importance for Canada. Based on the outcome of the 2013 Women’s Worlds, the autumn training camp in preparation for Sochi will either have familiar faces or newer ones.
The loss to the United States at the 2012 Four Nations Cup still lingers, and the rivalry will only intensify as the Road to Sochi starts with the 2013 Women’s Worlds.