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Canadian Press
1/1/2007 2:02:07 PM

LEKSAND, Sweden (CP) - The Swedish Tre Kronor flag hanging out front came down and the Maple Leaf went up the day the Canadian junior men's hockey team moved into the Hotel Korstappan.

The 100-year-old, three-storey country house has been turned into the Canadian team's compound for the world junior hockey championship. Only the players and staff are guests there.

The Canadian team has its own chef. They've got a widescreen television hooked up to the internet so they can watch sports highlights from North America and there are also wireless laptop computers so the players can stay in touch via e-mail with friends, family and fans at home.

Next door is a building where the players go for massage and injury treatment, so they don't have to go to the Ejendals Arena, even though the rink is only a five-minute walk through the forest.

The players wandered around the main floor in shorts or sweats, bare feet or flip-flops Monday, enjoying a day off from the ice because their semifinal match isn't until Wednesday.

"It's exactly like a home away from home," defenceman Karl Alzner said. "It's so cozy it doesn't feel like a hotel.

"We're all walking around with no shoes and bringing food from the kitchen area to sit in front of the TV. It's exactly what we'd be doing at home."

Monday was a day off for all teams. The winner of Tuesday's quarter-final between the U.S. and Finland will meet Canada.

Sweden and the Czech Republic meet in the other quarter-final with the victor advancing to face Russia in the other semifinal.

If the Canadian players aren't at the rink, they're at the hotel and can most often be found in the lounge watching television.

"There's a lot of down time during these tournaments," forward Daniel Bertram said. "It's like a big house and you wander from room to room and see what guys are up to and come down to the main area here and everyone is watching TV.

"It's been good for team building because you get to know guys pretty quick."

The reason for the Canadian team's carefully constructed living environment here is the gold medal.

Canada has won the last two gold, but both of those tournaments were in North America.

Canada hasn't won gold at a European tournament in a decade. The last one was in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1997.

Jet lag, altered sleep patterns and unfamiliar food can compound the fatigue that sets in over the course of this tournament.

Hockey Canada wanted to alleviate those stresses for the players.

"Any opportunity you have to control the environment, we want to do that,: explained Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada's director of men's national teams. "Everything here is on our schedule to what time they clean the rooms and what time we have our meals.

"A step further was with the chef. If you have your own hotel, your own players' lounge, why not have your own chef and control the food that you're going to eat?"

The players are positively giddy over chef Andrew Gass, who is on loan to the team from Calgary's Metropolitan Grill.

"He's unbelievable," said Bertram. "We get North American meals.

"I remember at the under-18 tournament in the Czech Republic, I don't remember half the stuff I ate, but it's nice to have someone here who knows what they're doing.

"I'm going to have to go back to Boston College and eat dorm food for the rest of the year."

Added Alzner: "When we want a grilled-cheese sandwich at nine o'clock at night, it's right there waiting for us."

While the players get their pancakes and French toast and required pre-game pasta and chicken, Gass has tried out a few different dishes, including moose heart, to mixed reviews.

The technology linking the players with Canada keeps them mindful of how much the tournament is followed at home, so they don't forget that in a smaller arena where they have far fewer fans than they did last year in Vancouver, said Salmond.

"We want to make sure we keep that connection through the media and by providing wireless internet and providing TSN on TV here," he said. "It's kind of a subtle reminder every day of how important it is back home."


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"I woke up to have the window blow right open and our door slam shut. All of a sudden I head a doorknob kind of turn. I heard the door open a little bit and every five minutes the door opened a little bit more. I'd look over and our door was five inches open and I didn't touch the door. No one touched the door.

"I put my headphones in and my head under the blanket and I was out. It kind of freaked me out."
Creepy lol, I would have thought the hotel was haunted also, any old buildings give me the feeling that it is haunted lol
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