Christmas comes early

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

Looks like Santa Claus made it down the chimney a little early for the Canadian women's Olympic hockey team.

He arrived early and carried a big cheque in his bag of presents -- $200,000 to be exact -- courtesy of Molson Canada, a longtime supporter of Hockey Canada.

The cash will be used by Hockey Canada to help the families of the players travel to Turin, Italy, for the Olympics, which run from Feb. 10-26.

That means, should she make the team, Calgarian Carla MacLeod's parents, Gerry and Edna, will be making some noise in the stands as the Canadians try and defend their 2002 gold medal.

"It's huge anytime your family can be there, especially since this has been a goal of mine for 10 years," said MacLeod, a defenceman, after yesterday's announcement.

"My parents have seen me through the lows and the highs as we try to achieve this goal and make it become a reality. Knowing they're there in the stands would mean the world to me."

Her parents have consoled her through the tears and celebrated with her during the good times, like when she made the world championship team last season.

It would also mean everything to her folks, who've lived their daughter's dream with her.

"You certainly live your dreams with your kids. You feel everything they feel," said Edna.

"If she makes the team, it's going to be top-notch."

And getting to Turin is no gimme for MacLeod, or any other player on the team for that matter.

Head coach Melody Davidson has 26 players left in camp and she's taking 21 to Italy, including three goalies.

The way MacLeod figures it, she has a decent shot at making the Olympic squad.

"I feel I have a 75 percent chance. There are eight defencemen here and six are going," said the University of Wisconsin star, who played on Canada's 2005 world championship team.

"If I had come in here not playing with the team before, I think my confidence would have been an issue. But having played the world championship, I realized I could play at this level."

The 5-ft. 4-in. blueliner captained Wisconsin the past two seasons while taking legal studies.

Davidson has until Jan. 23 to submit her final roster.

Team Canada will play a three-game series against Sweden starting tomorrow (Father David Bauer, 8:30 p.m.) designed to mimic the round-robin schedule the club will face in Turin.

Canada's first Olympic test is against the host Italians on Feb. 11.


Videos

Photos