Eight of the 22 women who will make up Canada’s national hockey team for next week’s 4 Nations Cup touched down in St. John’s Wednesday evening.
Among them were Team Canada veteran and four-time Olympian Jayna Hefford and a 2010 Olympic team blueliner Tessa Bonhomme.
“We’re really excited to be here and we know we’re going to have incredible support from the people down here,” Hefford, a native of Kingston, Ont., told the Telegram.
“The majority of provinces down east support events like this so well and are so friendly and welcoming.”
The tournament — which includes Team U.S.A., Sweden and Finland — doesn’t get underway until next Tuesday at Mile One Centre and the Clarenville Events Centre, so the squad will use next few days to get re-acquainted with another.
But in some cases, they’ll be getting acquainted for the first time as the team welcomes eight new players into their ranks. Four Team Canada members — Becky Kellar, Carla Macleod, Colleen Sostorics, Gina Kingsbury — closed out their national team careers following the Canadian’s gold-medal win in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
The new recruits were all members of an under-22 national team that swept an American side in a three-game series this August in Toronto.
The team has yet to hit the ice as a unit, but it doesn’t concern the veteran Hefford.
“The depth in our program is so great that everyone here has played internationally, whether it’s been under-18, under-22 or with the national team,” Hefford says.
“So we’ll take a couple of days to get to know each other a little better... in a few days we’ll be ready to go.”
Team Canada open the 4 Nations against Tuesday at Mile One against an American squad that has undergone a similar metamorphosis with new, young talent brought in.
“Much like our young players, they’re full of skill and talent,” Bonhomme says of the rival American team.
“It’s just a matter of which team comes together and plays their systems the best.”
While Sweden and Finland aren’t considered legitimate threats to take the 4 Nations title, Hefford stopped short of saying this is a two-team tournament.
“We don’t see each other very often, so in a matter of six or eight months, a lot can change. So we approach every game the same and I expect them to give us a game like they always do.”
Bonhomme adds, “we’re hoping Sweden show up and play the physical game they usually do and Finland play their face-paced, always on you, always in your face hockey.”
While Hefford has been to the province before — and already counts herself as an honourary Newfoundlander — the visit is the first for Bonhomme. She plans on doing some sightseeing and getting to know the culture during her stay.
“George Street, I’ve heard a a lot about that as well,” the Sudbury, Ont., native admitted.
“But we’re going to have to wait until the tournament’s over.”