Maple be-Leaf

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

To his left are pictures, dozens of them, of Canada's championship teams dating back to 1920.

Behind Ryan Getzlaf are trophies from a variety of tourneys, plus an original Winnipeg Falcons sweater reminding all of the 1920 Olympic champions.

Straight ahead of the Calgary Hitmen captain is the list of world championship teams and their coaches. Welcome to Hockey Canada's hall of champions.

"It gives you a little tingle in your stomach to see all the guys that have been through here and through this organization," Getzlaf says, soaking up the atmosphere. "It gives you a lot of pride to stand in a room like this."

And incentive.

Getzlaf and 31 others chosen to attend the world junior team's selection camp won't have to be told about the nation's drought.

They're fully aware the last world junior title came in 1997, before any of those who'll don the Maple Leaf this Christmastime had reached their teens.

The camp opens Sunday in Winnipeg. The 22-player team will be named by Dec. 16 and will open the tournament against Slovakia Christmas Day in Grand Forks, N.D.

Seeing as the NHL brass and its players can't decide how to fairly split its $2-billion pie -- and won't likely figure it out by the time the tournament in North Dakota opens on Christmas Day -- Canadians will expect them to fill the void with gold.

It's a welcomed push.

"It's nice to have the pressure to play at that level. Everybody in Canada wants that gold medal and we haven't had that in a long time," said Getzlaf, who helped Canada win silver at last year's tournament.

"Now, we're excited for the opportunity again."

"It's a challenge," states head coach Brent Sutter, "and with challenges come great opportunities.

"They've got a great opportunity. Adversity is good if it's handled right and dealt with right. Our job as coaches, part of our job, is to make sure we do the right things so they deal with the task at hand.

"They've got to get used to it, though. They're gonna be pros some day and they're going to go through it all again. What better way to learn it."

Certainly, there's a good reason to believe the collection unveiled yesterday is capable of winning that elusive gold.

(To be fair, Canada has won four silvers and two bronzes in the last six years.)

The talent level -- thanks to the lockout -- rivals the squad that skated to gold in Red Deer in 1996. Patrice Bergeron, who was in Boston last season, super-prospect Sidney Crosby, Hitmen forward Andrew Ladd, OHL standouts Mike Richards and Anthony Stewart, sniper Nigel Dawes and WHL scoring leader and Calgary product Ryan Stone are vying for the forward positions.

The defence is considered as strong as ever with Flames top prospect Dion Phaneuf along with fellow first-rounders Cam Barker, Shawn Belle, Braydon Coburn, Mike Green and Brent Seabrook in the mix.

The big shocker is in goal, with four WHLers looking for the spots: Rejean Beauchemin, Kevin Nastiuk, Calgarian Devan Dubnyk and Cochrane's Jeff Glass.

All told, 21 of the 32 invitees are from the WHL.

However, Sutter -- owner, manager, coach and everything else for the Red Deer Rebels -- insists he isn't concerned with where the players come from.

All he cares about is whether they have what it takes to win.

"It's part of accountability, part of responsibility and part of leadership," Sutter said. "I sat down with those returning guys in August before we started our evaluation camp and made it very clear to them that those were the expectations of the coaching staff and if they want to be on the team, they had to provide that and give that."

Phaneuf, who painfully remembers losing to the U.S. nearly one year ago, is already gearing for that role.

"It's a huge thing in the back of everybody's mind and it's been there since we lost out in the gold-medal game," he said. "You never forget that feeling so I know talking to the guys that are coming back, it's gonna be a very exciting time.

"Everyone wants to do a job."

And add to the legacy.


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