Only the best for our boys

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

They are the defending Olympic gold medal champions.

And they will be treated like gold by Hockey Canada when they attempt to repeat that feat in Turin during the upcoming winter games, which kick off next month.

Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson, Team Canada executive director Wayne Gretzky and the entire support staff are sparing no expense to make the Canadian players feel comfortable during the Olympic experience.

Tentative plans are for Team Canada players to practise in Toronto on the afternoon of Feb. 13, one day after the final night of scheduled NHL games.

"We're hoping to have everybody there, but some guys will be playing the night before out west and we might not want them to go right back on the ice right away," coach Pat Quinn said last night.

Later that evening, Team Canada will fly non-stop to Italy on a 767 that also will include friends and family members. Players are said to be allowed to bring an entourage of up to five people.

Because there normally are no direct flights from Canada to Turin, the charter will be a huge convenience for the Canadian players. Several U.S. players, meanwhile, said the Americans likely will have to fly via Germany before reaching the host city.

"The whole concept is to eliminate distractions," Quinn said. "The system has pretty much been put into place for any Canadian team in international competition."

Team Canada goalie Martin Brodeur feels these steps give his team an advantage.

"We are being treated like royalty," Brodeur said. "They are making arrangements for our families, they are handling all our ticket requests, everything outside of hockey is being taken care of so we can solely focus on the job at hand.

"From the Olympics to the world championships, they always treat us unbelievably. They know we are going out of our way to play for our country."


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