CALGARY -- It was Ryan Smyth's first day at camp and he knew something. Somebody was missing.
Then it hit him who. Brew.
Smyth is now only the lonely -- the last of the Canadians who won Olympic gold in 2002, world gold in 2003 and 2004 and a World Cup of Hockey gold back in September.
Edmonton Oiler teammate Eric Brewer had skated with him to all those achievements. But, unbelievably, he said "no" to playing on this team.
Smyth says he was stunned to find out that Brewer, who had always answered Canada's call, said "no".
"I didn't get a chance to talk to him about it. I assumed he was coming.
"When he joined me for those charity games (the ill-fated Ryan Smyth Tour), I just assumed he was coming on board to prepare for this. But I didn't sit down and actually talk to him about it."
Smyth skated with Team Canada for the first time on the last day of camp to prepare for his seventh consecutive IIHF World Hockey Championships here yesterday.
Captain Canada was back and the Oilers didn't have to miss the playoffs or lose in the first round for it to happen this year.
"I've been anxious about it for a few months," he said in the post-practice scrum as the team said goodbye to Calgary and prepared for today's trip to Halifax and the first of four pre-tournament games.
IN THE THICK OF THINGS
"Now that I'm here, I'm extremely excited. I was thrilled to walk into the room. It's good to be in the thick of things."
Smyth, who also won a World Junior in Red Deer in 1995, will be representing Canada for the 10th time internationally and will fly his new daughter, Elizabeth, his wife Stacey and his other child to Austria after having spent as much time as possible with them prior to joining the team.
"We decided I would come and that she would come over to Austria as well. It's a lot of weight off my shoulders with her making the trip with the two kids."
Smyth said he'd been sitting at home, following camp as closely as he could.
"I'm extremely excited. Obviously it's family first but I've talked to players every day on the phone to see how things are going. I've read the columns and stories and seen the TV stuff. I've kept updated. I'm anxious and eager to play. I need to get back to competition."
Smyth set a record by playing his 51st game with Team Canada at the world championships in winning a second straight gold medal last year. If they do it again, he'll be one of only three Canadians to ever win three in a row, and the total will be up to 60.
MUST BE PART OF TEAM
Smyth, who may be better remembered for playing in a Team Canada uniform than an Oiler uniform (this will be his third time wearing it since he last wore an Oiler uniform), says he needs to be part of this team more than ever before.
Smyth had his name on a spectacular disaster featuring two teams of NHL players which drew flies in Red Deer, Moose Jaw and Regina before it was aborted.
Only a few fans who showed up, paying their dollars to holler at the overpaid NHL players who co-conspired to take their hockey away from them.
"It's extremely important to myself to do this more so this year than any other year. Mentally with the lockout ... well our game is struggling right now" is how he put it.
Smyth said it's going to be interesting having Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish as a Team Canada assistant, especially if he's Captain Canada again. Smyth captained the team to back-to-back world championships and would be in his fifth tour of duty wearing the "C" for Canada. But he's not the captain of the Oilers.
"Having MacT with us is going to be different. I think he'll do a great job. He's very technical. He knows the game and he knows a lot of players inside and out. I'm sure he's going to enjoy this challenge."
As for the "C", what can he say?
"It's up to coaches and management. A letter on my jersey is not going to change who I am or how I play. I've been honoured in the past. If they don't choose to do it this time, it won't affect me. They have some other guys to consider ... like that old guy Kris Draper."