Davidson shouldering expectations

KATHY RUMLESKI -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

There's Mel Gibson, Mel Brooks and Mel Torme.

Canadians can add Mel Davidson to the list of famous Mels if she coaches our national women's hockey team to gold at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

Davidson was an assistant coach at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, where the Canadian women won their first gold.

The pressure to deliver this time rests squarely on her shoulders.

"When you're put in these positions, you know what the expectations are," said Davidson, who has served in various coaching, scouting, development and coach mentoring roles with the program for the last 12 seasons.

The importance of winning medals at the Olympics has never been a higher priority for the Canadian Olympic Committee than now as it gets set to play host to the world in 2010 in Vancouver. COC secretary-general Chris Rudge said recently that Canada needs to develop a "killer instinct" to win more medals.

The committee has predicted Canada will be among the top three nations in total medals won in Italy. This week the COC sent out a release saying Canada is on target to achieve this. In World Cup results this season, Canadians have won 74 medals, second only to the U.S. with 84.

Davidson said her bosses at Hockey Canada only set goals of gold for both the men's and women's teams.

"If we win, everyone will be ecstatic. The country will be crazy," Davidson said from Calgary, where the women are training.

If they lose . . . nobody even wants to think about that.

The national team handily swept a three-game exhibition series with Sweden last week in Calgary. The series' schedule, designed by Davidson, mimicked the Canadians' schedule in Turin.

The start times for the three-game series were the same as the round-robin games in February and the players had the exact amount of time and rest in between.

"You have to find a balance between their rest times and keeping them on the edge," said Davidson.

The one thing that concerned her in the Sweden series was the slow start her team had in two afternoon games.

"If we don't put together the better part of 50 or 60 minutes, we're not going to win hockey games."

Sponsors are also helping the women keep their mind on hockey.

Molson Canada is giving the women's program $200,000 toward expenses, including the costs to get team members' families to the Games.

"When they find out they made the team, their focus doesn't have to shift to, 'How am I ever going to get family to come and watch me?' " Davidson said.

Davidson has to cut five more players from the roster and decide which two of the three goalies in camp will dress in Turin. It's a part of the job that she hates.

"It's tough to deal with every day. They're high-level athletes; they're driven and competitive. I know I can't go wrong in who I select and I know (the ones cut) are just going to be devastated."

Playing with the team to date is 18-year-old Meghan Agosta of Ruthven, who spent two seasons with the Strathroy-based Bluewater Hawks because of the organization's reputation of elevating players' skills.


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