Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Gold medal's the plan for Jets' Ladd at world championship

Make case for Olympic squad the ultimate goal

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ANDREW LADD has compiled an impressive collection of hockey hardware over the last seven years -- it would certainly be the envy of many who have made the game a career -- but he wants to add one more piece in the next month.

An IIHF World Hockey Championship gold medal.

The Winnipeg Jets captain, already a two-time Stanley Cup champ with Carolina and Chicago who also won world junior gold for Canada in 2005, heads to Zurich, Switzerland on Thursday as part of a Team Canada squad hell-bent on erasing last spring's fifth-place finish and re-establishing this country's place among the sport's elite. Canada is currently ranked fourth in the world by the IIHF (behind Russia, Finland and Sweden) and how it fares in this tournament will impact the rankings heading into the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

"That's a big thing, but going there you put a lot of pressure on yourself to win either way," said Ladd after a brief workout at MTS Iceplex on Wednesday. "It's a long commitment. It's a month, so you don't want to put in that commitment and come away empty. Last year when we lost in the quarters it sucked and it left a bitter taste in your mouth.

"The expectation for Canada every year is to win gold."

Ladd was an alternate captain for Team Canada last year and got the call again this spring not long after the Jets were eliminated from participating in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The chance to wear Canada's colours again -- and extend his season -- was a no-brainer.

"It's fun to be playing hockey at this time of year," Ladd said. "Obviously we (the Jets) came up short with what we were trying to do, but this is another opportunity to play and to win. We're going to have a good team going over there. That in itself is exciting and there's the chance to play with some top-end guys, too."

Among those top-end guys are Jets teammate Evander Kane along with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks), Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp (Chicago Blackhawks), John Tavares (New York Islanders), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Edmonton Oilers) and Jeff Skinner (Carolina Hurricanes). The team will be led by former Calgary Flames boss Brent Sutter, who also coached Ladd in Grand Forks, N.D., at the world juniors.

Canada will spend about a week in Switzerland and play a couple of exhibition games before opening the tournament, held in Helsinki and Stockholm, against Slovakia on May 4.

The other incentive, besides wearing the maple leaf and keeping his season alive, is this: By suiting up for this championship Ladd certainly helps himself when Team Canada brass begins the process of determining who will represent this country in Sochi.

"It doesn't hurt," Ladd said. "Hopefully you can go there, show what you can do and get somewhere on the radar. That's the ultimate goal for any Canadian kid, to play on the Olympic team and to have that chance. I'm sure that's why there are a lot of guys pretty eager to go over there.

"For me (playing for Canada) was something I always thought about growing up, it was a big goal for me. I thought it would be awesome to play in the world juniors and then after you get through that and realize how exciting that is then going to the NHL is that next step. But it's funny how that first thing is to play for Canada and to have that maple leaf on that sweater.

"It's special to Canada because it's what brings a lot of people together: hockey. To be involved in that and have the whole country around you is a pretty neat experience."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 26, 2012 C2

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