Winter Olympics: Team Canada plays ball hockey, takes line rushes

Tom Szczerbowski

Hockey Canada kept its 45-member orientation camp off ice but still found a creative way to squeeze in a practice.

Hockey Canada is interested in duplicating its gold-medal finish at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. However, the team is contemplating a new approach to capturing gold that involves a roster overhaul and an emphasis on open ice.

Considering the inflated insurance costs, Hockey Canada opted to keep its 45-member orientation camp off skates, but didn't keep the players out of the rink. In lieu of a full on-ice practice, Team Canada's coaching staff led a simulated practice -- complete with line rushes -- using ball hockey equipment.

Here the lines used at practice on Monday afternoon, via Bob McKenzie of TSN:

Forward session No. 1

Logan Couture - John Tavares - Steven Stamkos
Eric Staal - Jonathan Toews - Rick Nash
Martin St. Louis - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Andrew Ladd - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry

Defense session No. 1

Drew Doughty - Marc Staal
Dan Hamhuis - P.K. Subban
Dion Phaneuf - Brent Seabrook
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo - Travis Hamonic

Goalie session No. 1

Roberto Luongo
Braden Holtby
Mike Smith

Forward session No. 2

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patrick Sharp
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Jordan Eberle
Milan Lucic - Matt Duchene - James Neal
Taylor Hall - Jordan Staal

Defense session No. 2

Duncan Keith - Shea Weber
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle
Marc Methot - Kris Letang
Karl Alzner - Mike Green

Goalie session No. 2

Carey Price
Corey Crawford

Early reports have indicated that Hockey Canada's management team is mindful of the larger rink being used at Sochi. This has led to comment about players needing to have exceptional foot speed and puck movement ability to make the team. The goal of Monday's practice was to teach the players what kind of system Canada will use at the Olympics, which included breakouts and special team formations.

Here's a clip from practice, via Jason Botchford:

If the team is looking to take a new strategic approach at Sochi, they're going to need some way to practice. With the insurance bill acting as a roadblock, Hockey Canada found a creative way to work around the issue. That is, as long as the insurance companies don't take exception with it.

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