Canada's national bandy team, comprised exclusively of 20 Manitoba athletes, arrived in Väster�*s, Sweden, today to compete in the 2009 World Bandy Championships Jan. 21-25. Canada, competing in the B-pool, will play exhibition games against several Swedish club teams prior to opening competition on Jan. 21 against Estonia.
The other B-pool teams include Hungary, Latvia, Mongolia, Netherlands and USA. Canada earned silver last year after losing to the USA in the B-pool championship. The Canadian team will be led by player/coach Costa Cholakis, in his eighth world championship tournament, along with fifth-year veterans Brandon Ellement, Jason Neufeld and Brian Davis.
"It's just a new love for a new game, it's a completely different strategy than hockey and it's a great game to play outside," said Kevin Marchuk, 23, in his second year with Team Canada after competing in Moscow in 2008. He is a former player with the River East Royal Knights of the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League. "It allows us to travel, represent Canada and meet new guys in places that we might not have ever visited otherwise. We are treated unbelievably and it is just an incredible experience to be part of something like this."
Marchuk joked that only bandy could put him side-by-side with players from River East's MMJHL arch-rival Charleswood Hawks -- players such as Steve Landreville, Mark Ralph and Brett Gavrailoff and Ellement.
"They were my old foes and now we're teammates!"
Landreville, a former member of the Hawks who is one of six players in their first bandy season, said bandy has been a great change and challenge for him.
"After nearly 20 years or so of playing hockey, you don't really encounter too many new situations and with this game, everything is new and it's just an incredible sport for fitness and sportsmanship," said Landreville, 22, a student teacher at Oak Park High School and an assistant coach with the No. 1-ranked Oak Park Raiders boys hockey team in the Winnipeg High School Hockey League.
Bandy is played on an ice surface the size of a soccer pitch, using a curved stick and a ball. The Team Canada players said it is best described as a sport similar to field hockey and soccer on ice.