Canada revs their engine

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

HALIFAX -- It's like getting a hot new sports car. You can't wait to get off the side streets, really open it up and find out what it can do.

Ken Hitchcock, behind the wheel of Team Canada here against the USA this afternoon, can't wait to find out what's under the hood.

Can the home edition of Team Canada be as good a team at the only IIHF World Championships ever played in Canada as the specs suggest it could be?

It's one thing to take the team out for a tournament test drive against Slovenia or Latvia.

But yesterday there was a sense of anticipation and excitement around the team preparing for this game which qualified as being unusual this early in the tournament.

"Everything gears up now," said Hitchcock.

"We need this game. We need it from an intensity standpoint and an evaluation standpoint.

"Potential-wise, we think we've just been scratching the surface with this team so far. We think there's a lot more in the tank and I think everybody is excited to see how we play when we play our best against a team we have to play our best against to beat. No passengers.

"I think this team is excited to get into that," said Hitchcock of the only Canadian team still playing, with the exit of the Montreal Canadiens.

It may be a result of the high-octane lineup they've put together, the group of young core players who have had this experience playing for Team Canada before or it may be an extension of playing this tournament in Canada for the first time. But it's there.

"I think this team is ready to get emotional and excited. We want to be tested and pushed," said captain Shane Doan.

"We're excited to get to a game to show Canadians what we're capable of doing. We're excited to get to those games where you start to answer all those questions," said Doan.

There was also an excitement with this team, believe it or not, to find out that today's game will be the one in which they play in the 1976 Canada Cup uniform to honour that team which is being celebrated with a special luncheon here today.

"I was born in 1976," said Doan.

But he said hockey players know hockey history and they know that many members of that team - Bobby Orr, Bobby Hull, Bobby Clarke, Peter Mahovlich, Darryl Sittler, Lanny MacDonald, Denis Potvin, Bill Barber, Reggie Leach, Danny Gare, Jimmy Watson and coach Scotty Bowman - will be in the building for the occasion and that means something to be wearing their uniforms in front of them.

"It'll be exciting just to be wearing those jerseys. It'll be emotional to be playing the Americans. It'll be just a great atmosphere," said Cam Ward, the goaltender who won the Stanley Cup two years ago and the world championship gold medal last year in Moscow, who will start in goal for Canada.

Hitchcock says this isn't about being a game in front of a lot of old guys, it's about a game featuring a host of great young talent.

"This year we have two teams with a lot of depth and a lot of great young NHL players.

"There's a lot of firepower on both sides," he said of a game which will feature Dany Heatley, Patrick Kane, Rick Nash, Phil Kessel, Ryan Getzlaf, Peter Mueller, Jason Spezza, Tom Gilbert, Martin St. Louis, Matt Greene, Shane Doan, Patrick O'Sullivan, Ed Jovanovski, Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Jason Pominville, Johnathan Toews ...

"You go right down the lineups on both teams. All these lines can score."

Hitchcock has been with both of Wayne Gretzky's Canadian Olympic team coaching staffs, but it's different at this type of tournament, he says. It's more fun to coach. You have time.

"In 2006 in Torino, we had two days. Here there's time to put it together. With these teams the bond is everything.

"The team that wins is the one which creates the best bond. We need to get to this game to find out where we are as a team creating that bond together."

For Team Canada, the tournament starts now.


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