Canadians pack up, next stop: Selkirk

PAUL FRIESEN, SPORTS COLUMNIST

, Last Updated: 7:36 AM ET

DAUPHIN -- Team Canada leaves this western Manitoba city today with a nice, big souvenir for its dressing room wall, a healthy lineup for the first time this week -- and an eagerness to get the Women's World Hockey Championship started.

After one last practice yesterday, local organizers presented the team with a City of Dauphin banner signed by hundreds of fans who came out to watch the Canadians this past week.

Next stop: Selkirk, for one last tuneup, against Finland, tonight. Then it's on to Winnipeg to take on the world.

"We're antsy," defenceman Delaney Collins of Pilot Mound admitted. "It's a long season, and you think about the world championship from the time the team is announced, or even before that.

We're ready to head to Winnipeg and get going ... and feel the good vibe we're getting from that city."

That good vibe includes news that the tournament attendance record of 94,000 has already been broken, and sales are sure to break the 100,000 barrier.

"I'm not surprised at all," Collins said. "We played in Winnipeg last Jan. 1 and the crowd was phenomenal. I know there's going to be a lot of fan support and that aspect of our game will be very intense. I'm looking forward to it. It motivates me."

Team Canada received good news from within, too, as defenceman Carla MacLeod of Calgary, flattened by a bad flu bug all week, was back on skates and should play tonight.

"I was pretty sick," MacLeod said. "I don't wish that upon anyone. It was certainly not fun. At the same time, I'd rather it was this week than next week."

The reigning Olympic champs received a hero's welcome here, with Thursday's game against the local midget AAA boys team played before a packed house.

Tonight's game is also expected to draw a capacity crowd in Selkirk, where fans should get a chance to salute goaltender Sami Jo Small of Winnipeg.

The Olympic gold medallist and four-time world champ, an alternate for the tournament, is expected to play against the Finns.


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