Game on, Canada!

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:50 AM ET

CALGARY -- After the darkest day in hockey history, the sun came up and Bob Nicholson woke up with a great big smile on his face.

"Game Off" in the NHL.

"Game On" for Team Canada!

- Wayne Gretzky and Kevin Lowe heading the management team.

- Marc Habscheid the head coach.

- A lineup close to the calibre of Canada's gold medal team at the Salt Lake Olympics and World Cup of Hockey.

- Training camp in Calgary.

- Four pre-tournament games in Canada, the last two in the 2008 world championships host sites of Quebec City and Halifax.

Two pre-tournament games in Europe, one in Riga, Lativa and the other in Prague, Czech Republic.

And hopefully a third-straight gold medal at the world hockey championships for Canada.

Bob Nicholson sat in his Hockey Canada office here yesterday not looking the least bit sad about what has happened with the loss of an entire NHL season.

While he won't announce all of the above for a few days, he certainly telegraphed all of the above in a one-on-one interview in his office hours before taking a flight to Europe.

BOSS GRETZKY

Gretzky back as boss?

"Yeah, we're going to Wayne. Why wouldn't you?

"Everything he's touched for us has turned to gold," said Nicholson of the Olympic and World Cup gold medals.

"I've talked to Wayne and I'll be talking to him again. Hopefully, he'll take it on."

Habscheid, the former Oiler who is now the head coach of Canada's program, is set.

"It's in his contract," said Nicholson.

"But Marc has told me he's willing to take whatever role we want him to take."

When it comes to players, we'll take our best, said Nicholson.

"Best on best with NHLers. We intend to take our best players. I'm sure we'll start with Martin Brodeur in goal. But what is a top player? A lot of players are over in Europe playing. But there are a lot of other players who haven't played. That's why we'll hold a training camp."

ANSWERED THE CALL

One other thing that Nicholson says has to be remembered here are the Canadian players who have answered Canada's call again and again and again.

"All that has to be considered. Guys like Ryan Smyth, Eric Brewer, Steve Staios, Shawn Horcoff, Daniel Briere, Dany Heatley ... they've been there for Canada every time they were asked."

Halifax and Quebec City would get games because they'll be host cities of the 2008 world championships, the first Canada has ever hosted and a special event to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the IIHF.

Nicholson said he'll investigate the idea of going to NHL arenas. But preliminary planning is looking at Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Hamilton as other options.

"We'd need the games to help cover the insurance and other costs."

Nicholson woke up yesterday believing that there's a much better chance of NHL pros playing in the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games as a result of what happened.

"I think the NHL and the NHLPA will realize they have to send their players to the Olympics for the fan.

"They owe the fan. Best on best at the Olympics is one thing they can give the fan. More so than ever before, when they get back playing, the NHL and NHLPA will have to grow the game again."

All's well that ends well. After the darkest day in hockey history. I'm convinced a lot of things will end well.


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