By Mike Burse
For the 26 Canadian hockey players invited to try out for the team that will compete at 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, this is the chance of a lifetime.
Eighteen of those 26 players are moving to Calgary, sacrificing many other aspects of their lives for this camp including families, as many have children or are graduating from college.
The oldest player on Team Canada, Becky Kellar, at 34, even has her parents moving in with her to help care for her two sons while she focuses on making the Olympic team.
Prior to Team Canada opening the Olympics against Slovakia on Feb. 13, they will play a 61-game schedule not including practice and dry land training.
Of these 61 games, 30 will be played against the 18 teams of the Alberta 'AAA' Midget Hockey League. These games will include a four-day tournament at Calgary's Father David Bauer Olympic Hockey Arena from Sept. 24-27.
The AMHL has also indicated that the first time an AHML team faces off against the National Women's Team it will count toward the AHML standings (not including the four day tournament).
This will ensure that these games get truly competitive and allow the women the competition they need to be ready for the Olympics.
Body checking will not be allowed in games against the Women's National Team but there will be plenty of body contact to go around during these games.
The first test of this 61-game schedule is a match against Sweden's Women's National Team on Aug. 15 in Calgary. The Swedes are staying in British Columbia to train for the upcoming Olympics in February.
Out of all the countries involved in women's hockey, Canada, USA, Finland, and Sweden will be the only ones with a shot at taking home the gold medal.
To purchase tickets for any of the 61 games the Women's National Team will play, head over to www.hockeycanada.ca. Hockey Canada is thrilled to make this possible.
“We’re excited today to announce a partnership between Hockey Canada and the Alberta Midget Hockey League,” says Julie Healy, director of female hockey with Hockey Canada. “The series will be an important part of the schedule for the National Women’s Team as it works toward the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.”
According to Healy, the Women's National Team budget for the lead-up to the Olympic games in February is $3.5 million.
Each of the 26 players on the National Team will receive base funding of $1,500 per month, and on top of that they will receive $2,650 living and grocery allowance from Hockey Canada per month. Hockey Canada wants to make this their full-time job up to the Olympics.
It is good to see that these women uprooting their lives and dreams outside of hockey will be well taken care of from a financial perspective. Some of the luckier women also have corporate sponsors that will provide funding to them.
National Team Head Coach Holly Davidson will not reveal when she will whittle down her roster to the 21 players who will represent Canada at the Olympics.
The coach says, "It'll be when they are ready,'' she said. "I really don't like picking a date. Players just focus too much on it. Even as staff, you focus too much on it. Let's just have fun, train every day, get better and see where that takes us.''
This will surely be an exciting time for all the players trying to crack the Olympic team. As we get closer to the Olympics, check back for more updates regarding the Canadian Women's National hockey team and their quest for gold at the upcoming Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.