Arrivals down to business

TODD SAELHOF -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 2:05 PM ET

They filed through the arrival gates at the airport prepared to take on the world and bear the pressure of a hockey-crazy nation.

Most of the three-dozen teenagers sported big grins, while others already wore their game faces, poised to get down to business hours before even stepping on the ice for evaluation yesterday at Father David Bauer Arena.

Welcome to the national junior team selection camp, boys.

Check your egos at the door and fire up the Canuck pride that has long been a standing tradition of gold-medal winning Canadian teams of the past.

"You are coming here to represent the country," said John Tavares, the most recognizable of the 36 puck prospects charged with defending the world junior title for Canada beginning Boxing Day in the Czech Republic.

"I definitely want the gold-medal around my neck and to hear our anthem being played.

"It's a dream for me."

Safe to say it's the aim of all these kids fortunate enough to be invited to the abbreviated selection camp, which opened last night.

Of course, Tavares -- billed as hockey's next 'Kid' or 'Great One' -- is this year's face of a national squad trying to stretch a streak to four straight years winning the touted world junior championship.

But ask Canada's head coach Craig Hartsburg and he'll tell you even Tavares has to do more than just show up over the next five days of camp at the University of Calgary complex.

"We have to find -- in a very short time -- the 22 kids to fit into the program," said Hartsburg, who was successful as the national team's bench boss last year.

"We have a pretty good feeling through Hockey Canada. But the right 22 players is in this group somewhere, and we just have to find them."

Perhaps another gold-medal take isn't as easily predicted compared to years past since just three players -- Val d'Or Foreurs forward Brad Marchand, Calgary Hitmen defenceman Karl Alzner and Everett Silvertips goaltender Leland Irving -- return from the 2007 win in Sweden.

But the bulk of these prospects, born in 1988 or later, have already played together over the summer during Canada's Super-Series with the Russians and during the recent Canada-Russia ADT Challenge, which saw all-star squads from the WHL, OHL and QMJHL square off against a travelling team from the Motherland.

"I wouldn't call it an advantage for those of us who have played together, but I would hope we have some chemistry," said Regina Pats captain Logan Pyett.

"But if you take days off here at camp, you're not going to win a spot on the team. It's a clean slate -- you have to work hard to get a spot."


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