Nicholson: camp crucial to Olympic success

Building a gold-medal winning side is a lengthy and exhaustive process, one that begins next week with Team Canada's Olympic team orientation camp.

Canadian hockey fans are dreaming of a Team Canada gold medal victory at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

But Olympic success isn't achieved by simply throwing a bunch of NHL players together at the last minute.

Building a gold-medal winning side is a lengthy and exhaustive process, one that begins next week with Team Canada's Olympic team orientation camp.

The final 23-man Olympic squad won't be announced until December, but 46 NHL players will take a break from their summer holidays and gather in Calgary from Aug. 24-27 for the camp, all with an eye to being named to Team Canada's roster for the 2010 Winter Games.

The orientation camp is an important first step in the selection process, Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson said Friday, because it allows players to bond and get to know each other.

Aiming for team bonding

"What we want to [do is make] sure that the players get to know each other better. You have a lot of young players here that haven't met some of the veterans and we want them to be at ease with them," Nicholson told reporters during a conference call.

"When we go into the Olympics in Vancouver, some players will fly in and have one practice and then we play.

"So, the [sooner] that they get to know each other [the better] … what happens on the ice [at this camp] is important but it certainly isn't the only thing we're looking at."

Chat with HNIC's Jeff Marek live from Canada's Olympic camp

Hockey Night in Canada's Jeff Marek will provide special coverage of Team Canada's Olympic orientation camp that begins Monday in Calgary.

Jeff will be filing daily reports for during the camp and on Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET you can ask him questions during a live interactive chat.

He will also send updates from Calgary on Twitter at

And even though several marquee players were not invited to the camp, Nicholson stressed that Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman won't overlook anybody when it comes time to name the final roster.

"Every player is still eligible to make this team, and I think Steve Yzerman will say it again, that he's going to pick the 23 best players in December," Nicholson said.

Nicholson was also quick to remind everybody how a key member of the Canadian squad that won gold at the 2002 Winter Games wasn't originally named to the team's orientation camp the year before.

"Remember what happened in 2001. Day 1 at camp, we needed to add a player. We added a player: Jarome Iginla. He had a pretty good 2002 Olympic Games for Team Canada," said Nicholson.

Earlier on Friday, forward Dany Heatley publicly spoke for the first time about his fractured relationship with the Ottawa Senators since asking the NHL club to be traded back in June.

Heatley decided to have a conference call of his own in advance of his arrival in Calgary so that his issue with the Senators would not become a distraction to the other players in the orientation camp.

It was the right thing to do, said the Hockey Canada president.

Avoiding distraction

"Hockey Canada really appreciates that he did the press conference. We wanted to make sure that anything that could be a distraction for this camp was removed," Nicholson stated.

Hockey Canada increased its coverage so players will be fully insured for the length of their contracts for all 82 regular-season games in a season. Previously, they were covered for their salaries for the final 52 games of the regular season.

The cost of fully insuring participants is significant as players with over $200 million US in 2009-10 salaries will be skating on the Pengrowth Saddledome ice next week.

"We wanted them to be at ease at this camp," Nicholson said. "It was a big step. It was more money than we expected.

"I think it's going to be great news to the players because now they have only one thing to focus on. This is the first step towards getting ready for 2010."

Nicholson hopes to make $400,000 from Thursday's intrasquad game at the Saddledome to help cover the cost of player insurance.