Anticipation high for Euro Can opener

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

The Euro Can Cup finally hits the ice tonight.

After months of preparation, the London Knights and club teams from Linz, Austria, Zug, Switzerland, and Munich, Germany, begin the seven-day tournament with London taking on Linz Black Wings at 7:30 p.m.

With all the teams practising yesterday, the John Labatt Centre looked like a tourist venue with cameras flashing and fans wandering around the building.

On the Linz team website fans are told "The big adventure has begun."

"Finally fans will get a chance to see how good the hockey is," said Pat Curcio, organizer of the event and one of the Knights team coaches. "Everyone is looking forward to it."

And it isn't just the Knights players. Most European teams have several imports who don't get to play in Canada often.

"I've been playing professionally in Europe for 11 years," Linz forward Brad Purdie said. "This is the first time I've played in Canada since I went to Europe. I'll have my dad coming down to watch. He lives in Oshawa. My brother in Milton is coming to the game .

"All the guys from Canada and the United States are pretty excited about this."

A successful import player can have a sweet life in Europe. Purdie has had goal-scoring and playoff success in his 11 years in Europe. His three daughters were born in Germany. His oldest, at seven, speaks three languages.

"It takes some getting used to culturally," he said of living in Europe. "It's quite different. We come home in the summer, there are things we miss about Europe you can't get over here. At the same time, it would never be home for us."

Purdie didn't get a chance to play the Knights when they toured Europe last year.

"I got hurt in practice the night before the game," he said. "I've been looking forward to this every since we were talking about doing it last year over there."

With his Austrian League season opening in less than three weeks, this tournament is a good starting point for the season.

"Going to be a good test to see where we are," he said. "London will be a strong team, but the other teams from Europe are good teams. It will be good for the guys who have never played the North American game on the smaller ice surface."

With Nazem Kadri not playing, the Knights added Darren Haydar, an AHL forward who signed with the Colorado Avalanche.

Curcio said Haydar will play on a line with Oilers Sam Gagner and Marc Pouliot. Brandon Prust will play with Robbie Schremp and Eric Nystrom on a second line. Drew Larman, Krys Barch and Cody McCormick make up a third line.

Larman is one of those hard-working, underrated players. "I'm living the dream," is his signature greeting. In the London Knights' Memorial Cup win in 2005, Larman killed a lot of key penalties and won a lot of key faceoffs.

After several years in the Florida Panther organization, he signed with the Boston Bruins.

"I couldn't ask for a better opportunity than in Boston. I've always kept my eye on the high goal, not letting obstacles get in my way. I just want to get better every day and thinking about what your goal is for that day, not thinking too far ahead."

Larman wasn't drafted in the OHL or the NHL. "I've always had a confident feeling that my services would be needed at the highest level," he said.

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EURO CAN CUP SCHEDULE

All games at the John Labatt Centre

Tonight: London Knights vs. Linz, Austria, 7:30 p.m

Tomorrow: Zug, Switzerland, vs. Munich, Germany, 7:30 p.m.,

Thursday: Munich vs. Linz, 7:30 p.m.

Friday: Zug vs. London, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday: Linz vs. Zug, 2 p.m.; Munich vs. London, 7 p.m.

Sunday: Semifinals 6 p.m.

Monday: Final, 7:30 p.m.


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