Canada arrives

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:46 AM ET

Most of Team Canada has touched down now and the players are itching to get back on the ice together.

Some of them had landed earlier and a couple have yet to come. But those who were here hooked up at the Winnipeg airport yesterday, then boarded a bus bound for Dauphin.

The Canucks will spend the week in the Sunshine City getting re-acquainted and preparing for the 2007 Women's World Hockey Championship, to be played in Winnipeg and Selkirk, April 3-10.

"It's really exciting," Pilot Mound's Delaney Collins said shortly after the flight from Calgary arrived early. "I'm pretty nervous about it because I know I'll have a lot of friends and family here. It's more of an excited nervousness and I'm just ready to get going into the tournament.

FIRST TIME

"This is the first time I've been in my home province for a world championship, so I'm expecting a lot from the fans and a lot of excitement and hype around the tournament. It should be a lot of fun."

The 5-foot-4, 133-pound defenceman is also expecting a lot of support from her own hometown.

"There's 700 people in the town, so you can expect a few of them to be here," said Collins, 29. "I bought a ticket for my dad and his seven siblings and their families so there will be a lot of Collinses in the crowd, and I love it."

But that will just add to the pressure of being the hometown faves.

"In a lot of ways, it's nice to be the favourite," said Collins who was an alternate when Team Canada won Olympic gold in Italy. "But it's important that we don't necessarily see it as pressure but more as encouragement."

This is, however, the first step towards getting to the next Winter Olympic Games.

"Everyone's pretty excited about the fact that the Olympics are in Vancouver in 2010," Collins said. "That has to be in the back of people's minds because there was so much hype about it.

"This is one step and I know that we're just going to try to focus on Winnipeg right now and try to put on a really great product on the ice for people to watch ... We're hearing that there's lot of interest and that they're hoping to break records in terms of attendance, so we're expecting a lot from the fans."

Like Collins, first-year player Tessa Bonhomme will be bringing in a contingent from her hometown of Sudbury, Ont. Both parents and her grandmother will be coming in from the mining burgh. An aunt and uncle who live in Winnipeg will also be attending.

"That'll be a lot of fun, I can definitely get the adrenaline going a little bit more," said the 5-foot-7, 140-pound rearguard who was a late cut last year. "But this just makes me proud and happy to be here. It's an honour to represent your country at such a high level of competition. I'm very excited and I can't wait for the tournament to get going."

However, a more patient veteran Hayley Wickenheiser believes the real excitement will start to develop during the Dauphin camp.

"Every time you play for Team Canada, you're expected to win the gold medal," said the 5-foot-10, 171-pound forward. "That's something we've all dealt with for many years and having a hometown crowd adds to the excitement.

"We've got three years of world championships until Vancouver. So every year's a big step. This is probably a very important one because we're not the defending gold medallists from the world championship, we're Olympic gold medallists. So we've got some unfinished business to take care of."

The USA is the defending world champ.


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