Olympic hockey camp to be ice-free
CALGARY—Steve Yzerman would prefer to get Canada’s players on the ice at the upcoming orientation camp for the Olympic men’s hockey team.
But the price tag to insure players against injury is too high for Hockey Canada, so the four-day camp starting Sunday in Calgary will consist of informational meetings about the Games in Sochi, Russia and fostering team chemistry off the ice.
“There’s lot of other things that need to be done in preparation, logistically going through how we’re going to get there, where we’ll stay, where family and friends may stay, a walk-through of the venues, drug-testing policy, a lot of informational things we need to go through and get out of the way,” he explained.
“This is a good time to do it.”
Forty-seven players—five goalies, 17 defencemen, and 25 forwards—are scheduled to arrive in Calgary on Sunday and head to Hockey Canada’s headquarters at Canada Olympic Park on the city’s west side.
Canada can take three goalies and 22 skaters to Sochi.
Among the summer camp invitees are 15 players who won Olympic gold in Vancouver in 2010, including Sidney Crosby.
The Pittsburgh star’s overtime goal lifted Canada to a 3-2 win over the U.S. in the final.
Players invited to the same orientation camp in the summer of 2009 skated daily and finished with an intra-squad game that drew a sell-out crowd to the Scotiabank Saddledome.
The Saddledome is undergoing restoration from severe flooding in June, but that’s not keeping the players off the ice next week, said Yzerman.
“It’s strictly insurance,” he stressed.
“It’s because of the high cost of insurance Hockey Canada is obligated to place on the players we’re not going to skate.”
It’s up to each country’s federation to insure NHL players against injury at summer camps.
Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson has said that would cost more than $1 million for the invited 47, whose combined 2013-14 salaries total $259 million, according to capgeek.com.
Canada’s isn’t the only ice-free summer camp. USA Hockey also has decided against an on-ice component to its men’s Olympic camp in Arlington, Va. on Monday and Tuesday.
The 2014 men’s Olympic hockey tournament will be played on wide, international ice, which places a premium on a player’s skating ability.
The new Markin MacPhail Centre at COP boasts a rink that size.
When asked if he wished the Canadians could make use of it next week, Yzerman said “yes” twice.
The 2002 Olympic gold-medallist also was executive director of the victorious 2010 squad. He said even a couple of practices could lay important groundwork for the Winter Games in February.
“We have such a limited amount of time to prepare,” admitted Yzerman, the general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“I think we’ll have two, maybe three, practices in Sochi prior to the Olympics.
“The summer camp, and it’s only a few days and six months in advance, but it’s a little time for the players and coaches to get on the ice and kind of run through some of the systems, the way they’ll play, the power play, penalty-killing, neutral zone and things like that,” Yzerman added.
“At least you’ll have an idea way ahead of time as to how we’re going to play.
“That, to me, was the most important part of going on the ice in August for a few days,” he said.
Strategy still can be communicated without skating, Yzerman reasoned.
Head coach Mike Babcock and assistants Lindy Ruff, Claude Julien, and Ken Hitchcock will have a video session with the players in Calgary.