SUN Hockey Pool

Play it again, Sam

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:24 AM ET

Sam Gagner is about to bookend his story book season as a member of Team Canada.

Gagner started the season with Team Canada at the Canada-Russia Series and, Sun Media has learned, he'll complete it with Team Canada at the only IIHF World Championship ever to be held in the home of hockey.

Gagner will be heading to Quebec City to join Team Canada for tomorrow's first practice with the team which will compete in the tournament which celebrates the 100th anniversary of the IIHF.

NAMED MVP

The 18-year-old, who was the MVP of the eight-game junior series which featured four games in Russia and four games in Canada before he became the youngest player in the NHL this past season, will be announced as the 14th forward on the team today.

Traditionally the 14th forward for the team has been a Canadian player who has spent the season playing in one of the pro leagues in Europe. But all those other years, the event has been held overseas.

Because the event is here this year, because Gagner is only 18, and because he's proven to be an exceptionally mature player for his age Hockey Canada has decided to break the rule.

Hockey Canada, in the past, hasn't made an NHLer the 14th man because of past experiences with players who became bitter hanging around the team without playing in years where there haven't been injuries or other reasons to press the 14th forward into service.

"There's not going to be any complaining on my end," said Gagner on his cellphone when reached by Sun Media for comment on the decision.

"It's an unbelievable opportunity," said Gagner.

"Any time you get a chance to play for Team Canada in any role or situation, it's a real honour. This is real exciting for me.

"I'll try to be ready or any opportunity. Just to have another Team Canada experience is outstanding," said the former London Knight who won a gold medal at the World Junior and then followed it up by being named the top player in the Super Series against the Russians.

It's been a dream season.

"It really has," said the kid who ended up with 13 goals and 36 assists for 49 points in 79 games.

"Right from the start with the Super Series, it's been a dream. I had a great tournament and we were able to come out with a win. That provided me with more opportunities for the rest of the year.

"At the Oilers training camp it gave me an opportunity to prove myself. That gave me an opportunity to start the regular season in the NHL with a chance to prove myself again. Now to get a chance to be part of this team ...

"It's going to be a great experience and a lot of fun no matter what happens.

"The entire year has been a great learning experience."

Bonus is that this isn't any old IIHF World Hockey Championship, it's the only one ever held in Canada. To wear that uniform, even once in a pre-tournament game against Russia Saturday or Finland Monday in Quebec City, would be a thrill.

FAMILIAR FACES

"It's in Canada. This has been a great tournament for many years and to finally have it brought to Canada, it's going to be unbelievable," said Gagner, who also gets to be in the same tournament as several of his Oilers teammates including Steve Staios with Canada, roommate Tom Gilbert with the U.S.A., line-mate Robert Nilsson with Sweden and former junior linemate Patrick Kane with the U.S. There's also a chance that Mathieu Garon, who had a breakthrough season in goal for the Oilers, could be added to the team today.

"I know Tom is pretty thrilled. The last time I talked to Robert he wasn't sure what was going to happen with him."

And Kane?

"I've talked to him about it a few times. He's pretty excited," he said of the rookie of the year candidate.

So is Gagner allowed to spend the month with the team in Halifax and Quebec City dreaming of wearing the uniform for Canada at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games?

"There's always dreams," he said. "I always dreamed to be in the NHL. That became a reality a lot sooner than I expected.

"The Olympics are something I've dreamed of being a part of, too.

"I'm pretty proud to be a Canadian. I'm just going to try to get better in the next two years to help the Edmonton Oilers win.

"Obviously there is a lot of talent in Canada. I'd really have to step it up to make something like that possible. But you're allowed to dream."

When your dream season has been extended, it seems almost mandatory.


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