Women's Hockey Coach Melody Davidson Looks Ahead to 2010

Training Camp Underway, Players Must Deal With ‘Reality, Not Perception’

Twenty-six of this nation’s best women’s hockey players are assembled on the West Coast, taking their first steps as a team toward defending Olympic gold.

A training camp for the national hockey team is underway in Dawson Creek and Tumbler Ridge, B.C., and will run to June 16. The aim is to have the players gel as a team but also, as head coach Melody Davidson said, to give them strong physiological training with off-ice conditioning and on-ice skill development.

Of the 26 players selected for this training camp, 21 will suit up next February at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Davidson was head coach in Torino 2006 where Canada won gold, and assistant coach in Salt Lake City 2002 where Canada also took home gold. Next year, they aim for a three-peat.

“It’s an incredible honour,” Davidson said of her role as head coach. “It’s a great program with terrific people. It’s very humbling.”

She said that excitement is building amongst the team. For the players, Olympic fervour is motivating and for some of them it is brand new. “For others, they have been through it and it’s bringing back great memories, terrific thoughts about how hard they have to work,” Davidson said before adding: “Well, maybe those aren’t such terrific thoughts.”

Davidson is charged with bringing together a group of individual hockey stars and forging ahead as a team, as one unit. She said that challenges are inherent, such as working hard with communication and dealing with what she calls “reality, not perception.” But for all players, the goal is the same: to make the Olympic squad and to win.

Canada is coming off a loss to the United States at the 2009 World Championships. It was the Americans’ fourth victory over Canada in the past five meetings. Yet the U.S. had beaten Canada eight straight times heading into Salt Lake City, where Canada won the Olympic crown. Davidson said the rivalry between neighbouring countries is healthy and one of the best in the world. In Vancouver, it will have been going strong for a full 20 years.

“Both countries have tremendous talent,” Davidson said. “For the women’s game, it’s great that these (players) are the role models that others look up to in both countries. I think our rivalry is very healthy and gets the best out of everyone who is involved in it.”

Two nations in another women’s hockey rivalry will pose challenges to Canada, according to Davidson. Both Sweden and Finland, who share a rivalry not unlike U.S.-Canada, will be in the thick of things at the 2010 Olympic hockey tournament. Sweden beat Canada late last year and Finland is “always knocking on the door,” Davidson said. “Those countries can beat you on any given day. If you are on the ice with them, you can’t be looking forward to the next game – you have to look forward to the next shift.”

Davidson said that Russia has tremendous talent on the women’s side, though their goaltending remains an area of concern. China is an up-and-comer and need to be taken very seriously on the international scene.

Yet something will remain unique and special about the U.S.-Canada matchup and in Vancouver next year, the matchup could take on golden stakes.