By Trevor Suffield
Jan. 22, 2009
Steve Landreville enjoyed considerable success as a member of the Charleswood Hawks of the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League.
Landreville is back on the ice this winter, but he's with a different team and playing a different game.
The Charleswood product began playing bandy earlier this winter, a sport he had never played before, and is a member of the Canadian team that is currently playing in the World Bandy Championships in Vasteras, Sweden.
It was very frustrating at the start, Landreville said of his introduction to the sport. I think the key to when you start bandy is to forget anything you've learned in hockey.
Bandy has been described as field hockey on ice. It is played on a surface the size of a soccer field with a ball instead of a puck. Each team has 11 skaters on the ice. Players use a three-foot stick to shoot and pass.
Bandy is a game of smarts. I mean obviously you need your athleticism, but there's a lot more thinking involved being a first year player, Landreville said.
The World Bandy Championships will wrap up Jan. 25 in Sweden.
Landreville is joined on Team Canada by close friend Brett Gavrailoff. The two were hockey teammates from the time they were 12 years old.
Landreville is happy that he and Gavrailoff are both getting to be part of Team Canada.
We're like best buddies, know each other inside and out, and we've kind of had the exact same experiences hockey-wise, said Landreville, who is finishing up his last year of student teaching at Oak Park High.
Team Canada, made up exclusively of Winnipeggers, played a pair of exhibition games against the U.S. national team in Minneapolis in November.
That rivalry will likely be renewed, as Canada and the U.S. are the favourites in the B Pool in Sweden.
Gavrailoff, 22, said he was excited about the opportunity to represent his country.
It's really cool to be able to represent Canada, that's quite a sweet thing, honestly, he said.
Landreville, Gavrailoff and the rest of Team Canada had to pay for their own air fare to Sweden. The rest of their expenses were covered through fundraising and sponsorships.
Although bandy has been around since the 1800s, it is still relatively new to Canada. The sport was introduced to Winnipeg in 1986.
Costa Cholakis first encountered the game while he was attending the University of Manitoba. He's been playing ever since and is a player-coach with Team Canada this year.
Cholakis said recent cold weather in Winnipeg made it difficult for the team to practice outdoors. Several practices had to be cancelled because there are no indoor bandy facilities in the city.
It was tough there for a while, when it was minus-30 and minus -40, said Cholakis, who also coaches the Canadian womens team.
Cholakis has played in several World Bandy Championships, including last years tournament in Russia, where Canada finished second to the U.S. He thinks that this year could be a breakthrough for the Canadians.
With a strong showing at the tournament, and with a push to get bandy recognized as an official Olympic sport, Cholakis hopes that the game will soon catch on in Canada.
There's no reason why Canada can't be No. 1 in two ice sports, he said.
Already off to a great start, the Canadian team beat Sponga, a Swedish Division 1 team, 6-2 in an exhibition match on this past Saturday. Landreville scored twice to lead the team to victory.
Tournament games started on Wednesday, with the big game against the U.S. is on Friday.