Sylvan Lake Admirals’ staff members are soon heading to Ingolstadt Germany to coach, prepare, film, tape and look after Team Canada Inline.
Last year, Admirals coach and general manager Jason Stephens and President Ted Stephens travelled with the team, for the IIHF World Inline Hockey Championship in the Czech Republic where coach Stephens steered the team to a bronze medal, the first medal for Canada since 1998.
This year, in addition to Jason and Ted Stephens, Admirals Equipment Manager Greg Suggett and Team Therapist Rebecca Spiers have agreed to lend their services to make it an all Admirals staff for Team Canada.
Sixteen teams from around the world compete every year for the right to be called World Champion and getting gold is never an easy task. There are two divisions of eight teams and the top eight teams play for the medals, while the bottom eight play for the right to get into the top division. The last place team of the A Pool is relegated to Pool B while the top team from Pool B is seated in Pool A at the following year’s World Championships.
This year Pool A consists of team from the Czech Republic, USA, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Slovenia, Germany and moving up this year Britain. The bottom pool includes Slovakia, who got relegated after last year, Hungary, Austria, Australia, Croatia, Japan, New Zealand and Bulgaria.
Team Canada faces an uphill battle, again, against teams that are stacked with European pro ice hockey players and in the case of the USA, pro inline hockey players. Inline or roller hockey is far more popular in countries outside of Canada. The Americans along with parts of Europe run professional inline hockey leagues that compete eight months a year. Many Division 1 European pro ice hockey players use inline hockey during the summer to stay in shape for the coming ice hockey season, so the level of talent some teams carry needs to be respected.
“It’s an honour to represent your country,” said Coach Jason Stephens. “Each of our Admirals staff and players are proud to wear the Maple Leaf. It was a great experience last year winning the bronze and I expect more this year, taking dead aim at a gold.
“We have a number of key players returning this year and each one knows what we expect and will help relay that to the new players. It’s a pretty solid group of players and I think we managed to step it up a notch with talent, skill and experience that we didn’t enjoy last year. We have been fortunate enough to have a couple of our players picked up for pro inline teams last year and a couple of younger players playing competitive inline at U.S. Colleges all winter. That means we are on track and others are noticing how well we play.
“We realize our program is lacking in the ability to bring young players along as a feeder to the national team and we hope to implement that in the very near future. That said, we need to focus on one game at a time and our first game against Slovenia is what we need to address. They beat us last year 6-4 in game one and put us in a hole we had to fight back from, not something I’m anxious to experience two years in a row.”
N.I.H.A operations manager, Nathan Fleck, Hockey Canada representative and Team Canada staff will arrive in Germany May 29th and the tournament runs from June 1st to 7th. Canada’s first game goes at 2 p.m. Friday, June 1st German time or 6 a.m. Alberta time, against Team Slovenia.
Complete game times, player profiles and results may be found on the Canadian National Inline Hockey Association site www.niha.ca.
by Ted Stephens – Special to Sylvan Lake News