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Canadian Press
Dec 25, 2006, 3:04 PM EST

LEKSAND, Sweden (CP) - The Canadian junior men's hockey team has forged team chemistry with ice water and insulting Christmas gifts.

The 22 players have spent almost every waking moment together on the road since the team was announced on Dec. 16 in Calgary.

The Canadians open the 2007 world junior hockey championship Tuesday against host Sweden (12:30 p.m.) feeling they've formed team chemistry through their team-building activities.

One of the first things they did together when they got off the plane in Finland on Dec. 17 was participate in that very Scandinavian ritual of sitting in a sauna and then hopping in cold water and repeating that several times.

"There's no better way to get to know your teammate than naked in a cold lake," laughed Canadian head coach Craig Hartsburg. "It was a lot of fun.

"There was an all-in mentality when we started those saunas. Not everybody wanted to get in (the lake), but by the end, everybody got in. That was really impressive. I thought that was a big step."

The Canadian team concluded pre-tournament training in Stockholm prior to Monday's arrival in Leksand. The players celebrated Christmas on Saturday by exchanging gifts that were designed to get under the recipient's skin.

Forward Ryan O'Marra presented defenceman Marc Staal with a flashlight so he could "find his way out from under the shadow of" brothers Jordan and Eric, who are both currently playing in the NHL.

"That was probably the lowest blow of them all," O'Marra admitted. "Marc took it in stride. He can handle it. He's very proud of his brothers."

Added Staal: "I get that all the time so I knew it was coming."

Staal's giftee was fellow defenceman Kris Russell, who got a T-shirt with a skull on it and a message on the back about what a mean, tough player Russell is.

"He's the nicest, calmest guy in the room," was Staal's explanation.

Forward Bryan Little got a 45-minute abdominal workout videotape from Jonathan Toews.

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