Road To The Olympic Games

Wickenheiser named women's hockey team captain

Hayley Wickenheiser was named captain on Monday of the Canadian women's hockey set to compete at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

Hayley Wickenheiser was named captain on Monday of the Canadian women's hockey set to compete at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

The Shaunavon, Sask., native will be one of four players making their fourth appearance for the team at the Olympics. The others are Winnipeg's Jennifer Botterill, Jayna Hefford of Kingston, Ont., and Becky Kellar of Hagersville, Ont.

"You think, 'I hope my game is the one that they want," Kellar said.

Defender Carla MacLeod of Calgary, the most valuable player at the world championships in April, will be making her second Olympic appearance.

"It doesn't get old," MacLeod told CBC News. "This has been a goal ever since it was announced that the Olympics were going to be in Canada, and then to have it become a reality today is absolutely exciting and just a dream come true."

Canada, which will be gunning for a third consecutive gold medal, selected a roster of 21 players that includes 14 with Olympic experience.

"We’re excited today to announce the 21 players who will go for gold in Vancouver," head coach Melody Davidson said in a statement.

"Our country is fortunate to have unbelievable depth in hockey and this is no different in the women’s game. The selection process has been difficult, which speaks to this depth."

In net, Kim St. Pierre of Chateauguay, Que., and Charline Labonte of Boisbriand, Que., will be making their third Olympic appearances, joined by first-timer Shannon Szabados of Edmonton. Countries are now allowed to carry three netminders.

Labonte was named top goalie at the most recent worlds, but it's not a given that she'll be the No. 1 netminder.

"Goaltenders are about the hot hand and we've got quite a few games left here before we have to make a decision as to who our main starter will be," Davidson said.

Davidson is going with a blueline corps that is a mix of veterans and Olympic newcomers. Edmonton's Meaghan Mikkelson, Montreal's Catherine Ward and Tessa Bonhomme of Sudbury, Ont., will be playing at the event for the first time.

They are complemented by Kellar — at 34, the oldest player — MacLeod, and three-time Olympian Colleen Sostorics of Kennedy, Sask.

"I look at our defence and I think we've got a balance of offensive, mobile defence and the stay-at-home, solid defensive defencemen when you look at Sostorics or Kellar," Wickenheiser said. 

"We need more offence from our back end and that's why you see some of the players that you do," she continued. "They have good upside — see the ice well, play aggressive — [and] they play fearless sometimes and I thought that's what we needed from our back end.

"The reality is, when we play the U.S., it comes down to specialty teams and we need to be able to generate more five-on-five offence. They're going to be a big part of that."

Forwards Caroline Ouellette of Montreal and Cherie Piper of Toronto are making their third Olympic appearance, with Ouellette able to play defence as well.

Ouellette, along with Hefford, was named alternate captain.

2006 returnees

Meghan Agosta of Ruthven, Ont., Gillian Apps and Unionville, Ont., Gina Kingsbury of Rouyn-Noranda, Que., and Sarah Vaillancourt of Sherbrooke, Que., are back from the 2006 team.

The youngest player on the team is 18-year-old forward Marie-Philip Poulin of Beauceville, Que., with Haley Irwin of Thunder Bay, Ont., and Rebecca Johnston of Sudbury, Ont., also making their Olympic debuts up front.

Canada will continue its series of exhibition games against the U.S. in St. Paul, Minn., on Dec. 30 and in Ottawa on Jan. 1.

"Friday night was our 42nd game and a decision had to be made," Davidson said. "We wanted everybody to go home at Christmastime knowing what their status was."

The Americans have won three of the last four world championships. USA Hockey named the women's squad on Dec. 17.

"We've got a great rivalry with the Americans, we've played them seven or eight times this season," said MacLeod. "We're pretty much 50-50.

"It's a fun game, it's heated, it can go either way on any given day, But hopefully, when the time is right, we'll get them."

Canada's last two cuts were forward Jennifer Wakefield of Pickering, Ont., and veteran defenceman Gillian Ferrari of Thornhill, Ont. Ferrari was a member of the 2006 Olympic squad.

"It's probably the toughest cut that I've seen in all my years," Wickenheiser said of Ferrari. "That's a big loss I think, a big void that we're going to have to find a way to fill."

"A lot of us were crying and we're thinking about her today," Ouellette said.

Wakefield, who has been sidelined with a broken wrist, was selected as an alternate.

With files from The Canadian Press