Steve Downie got the news on Sunday that he would be invited to Canada's selection camp for the world junior team and one thought came to mind: One more step.
One more step to making the club to fulfil a childhood dream, and in another sense, one more step to leaving behind the controversy that swirled earlier this season.
"I feel excellent," Downie said last night. "I've put everything else behind me and that's all I want to say about it. I want to go out there and play hard for Mr. Sutter and make the team."
Canada yesterday named 34 players to its selection camp, Dec. 11-16 in Vancouver, and Downie's inclusion was no surprise. Putting forth a high level of intensity, he wowed coach Brent Sutter at the summer development camp after he was a late addition in place of Sidney Crosby.
Canada will break camp with 22 players -- two goalies, seven defencemen and 13 forwards. Goalie Justin Pogge is the lone Maple Leafs prospect invited to camp.
The roster is a young one, as no less than 18 players who were born in 1987, 1988 or 1989 were named to the team. The youngest is Quebec Remparts phenom Angelo Esposito, who will become the sixth 16-year-old to try to earn a spot after Crosby, Jason Spezza, Jay Bouwmeester, Eric Lindros and Wayne Gretzky.
"It's kind of a surprise," Esposito told reporters in Montreal. "When I started the year, there was no talk of coming to Team Canada."
Hockey Canada director of player personnel Blair Mackasey noted that of Canada's four youngest teams to compete at the world junior, three won gold and one won silver. Often called a tournament for 19-year-olds, Mackasey figured Canada could have 10-14 players who were 18 years old.
"There are a lot of players who maybe people have not heard of, but I would imagine by the time this tournament is over, they will be household names," Mackasey said. "I don't think there is anything wrong with being young."
Canada, which opens Boxing Day against Finland, is going for a second gold in a row with just one player, defenceman Cam Barker, back from last year. The U.S. is the favourite.
Mackasey has no problem being an underdog. One aspect that can be assured is Sutter's club will be long on hard work, emotion and talent. That sums up Downie.
Downie fought a Windsor Spitfires teammate in September, which led to an investigation that led to the uncovering of a hazing incident before Downie was dealt to Peterborough.
"I would love to have Steve Downie on our team because he can help us win," Mackasey said. "I am not saying he is an angel and we all have our ghosts. But it's a dead issue. This is not a political exercise and it's not a PR game."