MONTREAL - Canada will open its training camp April 23 in Quebec City to prepare for the IIHF world hockey championship.
That was one of many details about pre-tournament camps, exhibition games and special events announced Monday at news conferences in Montreal, Quebec City and Trois-Rivieres, Que.
The 16-team tournament is to be held in Canada for the first time May 2-18 in Quebec City and Halifax. The aim is to help the International Ice Hockey Federation celebrate its 100th anniversary in the country where the sport was invented.
This year's tournament holds extra significance because teams that finish in the top-nine placings qualify automatically for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
Also, it will determine the No. 1 world ranking for the 2010 Winter Games. Canada, defending Olympic champion Sweden, the Czech Republic and Finland all have a shot at No. 1.
"It certainly is our goal to go into Vancouver as the No. 1-ranked country in the world, and we need to finish ahead of Sweden in this tournament to do that," said Scott Salmond, director of men's teams for Hockey Canada. "For other federations, to finish in the top nine and avoid qualifying, it's huge."
Canada, which sends a team mostly made up of players whose clubs missed the NHL playoffs, won the tournament for the 24th time last year in Moscow.
The Canadian team will play pre-tournament games April 26 against Finland and April 28 against Russia at the Pepsi Colisee in Quebec City. Then it will head to Halifax, where it will be based for the round-robin portion of the tournament.
Canada, Finland and Russia will all have their training camps in the former home of the now-defunct Quebec Nordiques of the NHL.
Slovakia and Germany will train in Halifax, France and Switzerland in Trois-Rivieres, Italy will be at Bishop's University in Sherbrooke, Que., Norway and Slovenia in Port Hawkesbury, N.S., Denmark in St-Hyacinthe, Que., and Belarus and the Czech Republic in Montreal.
The Swedes and Americans will have their camps in the United States.
Latvia has yet to decide on a training base, although it will play Belarus in an exhibition game April 26.
France plays Italy the same night at the Martin Brodeur Arena in the St-Leonard district, Montreal's largest Italian neighbourhood.
Trois-Rivieres has Russia-Switzerland on April 27 and France-Latvia the following day. Belarus meets Italy April 28 in Montreal.
On April 29, Denmark meets Switzerland in St-Hyacinthe and Norway plays Slovenia in Port Hawkesbury.
Salmond said most countries likely wanted to spend the pre-tournament period in the Quebec area because the semifinals and final of the tournament will be at the Pepsi Colisee.
Ticket sales have been strong in both cities, and are expected to pick up as star players come available to the various teams at the end of the NHL regular season and the first round of playoffs.
Because the tournament in is North America, players may even be joining clubs after the second round this time.
Salmond said Hockey Canada also announced six side events. They include:
-The world oldtimer's tournament May 5-10 in Halifax and May 8-11 in Quebec City will feature adult recreational league players from around the world, including the United Arab Emirates.
-The IIHF world youth hockey tournament May 1-4 in both cities will consist of male and female triple-A pee-wee and bantam teams from around the world.
-The annual international coaches conference, hosted by Hockey Canada since 1989, is slated for May 2-5 in Quebec City.
-The IIHF youth skills challenge May 2-4 in Quebec City. Minor hockey players in 42 countries born in 1993 or younger (1995 or younger in Canada) are now taking part in qualifying for the event.
-The officiating summit for game officials is May 2-4 in Quebec City.
-The national arena symposium, May 2-4 in Quebec City brings together people who use arenas with those who manage them.