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Scandinavia trip starts today with arrival in Finland
Michael Petrie, Calgary Herald
Published: Saturday, December 16, 2006

It's been 10 years since Canada last won a world-junior tournament abroad.

Brad Larsen was the captain, Marc Denis the starting goaltender and Mike Babcock the head coach in 1997 when they took gold in Switzerland, with a 2-0 triumph over the Americans.

European sites have offered just two silver, two bronze and an eighth-place finish in the years since.

But Canada's 2007 edition was announced Friday morning in Calgary and left for Scandanavia by nightfall, determined to end that trend.

"It's accepting that there's a big challenge there and wanting to conquer it," said head coach Craig Hartsburg, while his troops autographed hundreds of jerseys in a downtown Calgary hotel.

"The players know it's going to be different. They'll know more once we get over there and see just how different it is. It's a big challenge. We have to accept it and look at it head-on. There's no easy way to do it.

"All these kids are coming from leagues where they have to be good. Now, they have to be at their best."

Hartsburg was an assistant coach last winter when Canada won gold in Vancouver.

He has 11 players back -- compared to one returnee last year -- but travel circumstances tend to negate some of those perceived advantages.

"It's going to be a new challenge and we want to make sure they're fully prepared for everything," he said. "The travel, the atmosphere over there. Everything is totally different than Vancouver.

"Once you get on the ice, there's a difference, it's a different-sized ice surface.

"There's not too many similarities, other than the fact you're playing for the same championship."

Team Canada will arrive in Finland today, where it will stay four days and play an exhibition game against the Finns. On Dec. 21, they move to Sweden for another test match before opening the tournament on Boxing Day against the host Swedes.

Those games will help determine line combinations, defensive pairings and the starting goalie. In addition, the team will install its systems and enjoy some major bonding time.

Players new to the program will be immersed quickly into the group, while captain Kristopher Letang and his four assistants -- Steve Downie, Tom Pyatt, Jonathan Toews and Marc Staal -- will spearhead the team-building effort.

"Having 11 guys on the team who have been there before is big," said Ryan O'Marra, a key energy player last year. "We've been through a big tournament like this before and we know how tough it is. We know how important it is to be out there as a team and we're really going to stress that in the early stages.

"Anyone who's going to be seeking information or trying to find out what to do, all he has to do is ask one of the 11 guys who were here last year."

Here's a quick look at the 22 players who survived this week's selection camp in Calgary to form Canada's roster

Outlook: "We have speed, skill, desire and very good character," said head scout Jim Hammett. "I think we're a gritty team. If you look at the guys we have there, it's a nice combination of skill and grit. Look right down our roster of forwards -- Cogliano, Downie, Marchand, Toews -- all these guys can play both roles. We don't want to say first line to fourth line because if somebody goes down, one of the guys in a checking role could jump into a skill position."

Added Toews: "We're maybe a little more dynamic up front than we were last year. We're skilled and fast."

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