Collins redeemed after Oly snub

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:02 AM ET

She spent the summer in self-admitted isolation, intentionally avoiding her Olympic teammates.

They'd get together to celebrate their gold medal, she'd stay home. Not to mope, but to work.

Tonight, Pilot Mound's Delaney Collins enjoys the fruits of her labour, as she skates onto the ice before some 10,000 fans, including friends and family, as a member of Team Canada in the World Women's Hockey Championship.

Not as an alternate, as she was in Turin, Italy, a bittersweet pill she was forced to swallow after being a last-minute cut before the Games.

Tonight against Switzerland, Collins will be a full-fledged teammate, wearing her No. 34 jersey and, no doubt, her heart on her sleeve.

"I'm not going to lie -- I'm really, really excited about it," Collins said yesterday, the smile on her face saying it all.

A member of the national team for the 2004 and '05 world championships, Collins was devastated when her Olympic dream evaporated. Travelling to Turin as an alternate only reminded her how close she'd come.

After Turin, she rededicated herself, working out like never before.

Slowly, the confidence returned, until she'd done enough to reclaim her spot on the Team Canada blue line.

Last week, she was one of Canada's best players, as the team assembled in Selkirk for a training camp.

Tonight, her redemption becomes complete, the past finally behind her.

And with no guarantee she'll ever get another shot at the Olympics -- she's 29 -- Collins will spend the next eight days living in the present, and enjoying every minute.

"There'll be a lot of good energy," she said. "I'm just really trying to enjoy that. I feel really lucky to be part of this team this year."

The feeling is mutual.

"She's committed herself in terms of working hard, working on things like the power behind her shot, the shot selection, using her strength, which is her skating and deception," head coach Melody Davidson said. "The rest of the tournament will tell the tale. We expect her to be a contributing factor in the next five games."

She's already contributed to ticket sales.

With all the friends and family members coming out, Collins has been busy securing tickets, some 15 for tonight's game, and two dozen or so for the gold-medal final.

"I'm expecting a lot from a Collins cheering section," she said. "It's great. I think it was, like, $2,000 worth of tickets."

And who pays?

"They do," she said. "I hope."

That's OK.

Collins has already paid her dues just to get here.

FLIP A COIN? Davidson was planning to wait until last night to tell her goaltenders which one would start the tournament.

"They don't like it," the coach said. "They like to know earlier. But that's the way I like to do things."

Expect Charline Labonte and Kim St-Pierre to split the first two games.

DEPTH TO BURN: Lost in the depth of the Canadian lineup is the absence of star forward Cherie Piper, out after knee surgery last week.

Taking her spot on the top line, with Hayley Wickenheiser and Gillian Apps, appears to be veteran Danielle Goyette.

"I don't care who I'm going to play with," Goyette said. "We have so many good players, every line could be a first line on this team."

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THE SKINNY

Format for the World Women's Hockey Championship:

- Nine teams, three pools

Group A: U.S.A., China, Kazakhstan

Group B: Canada, Germany, Switzerland

Group C: Sweden, Finland, Russia

- Teams play two games within their group, then the pools are re-shuffled:

Group 1: the first-place teams from each group.

Group 2: the second-place teams.

Group 3: the third-place teams.

- Teams play another two games within their group, then it's the medal games:

Gold Medal Game: the top two teams from Group 1.

Bronze Medal Game: third place, Group 1 vs. first place, Group 2.


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