MONTREAL — There’s extra motivation for Patrick Duffy and Will Preudhomme to earn spots on Canada’s national short-track speedskating team this season.
Both are from the Toronto area and, for the first time, there will be a World Cup in their hometown.
Canada will host back-to-back World Cups at the Maurice Richard Arena in Montreal Oct. 30 to Nov. 1 and in Toronto at the MasterCard Centre from Nov. 6-8.
“To have an international competition will be huge for aspiring skaters in the (Toronto) area,” said Preudhomme. “We’re the biggest city in Canada, yet don’t have a whole lot of people that come and skate with the Toronto club, so it will be great to raise awareness and just get people interested in the sport.”
Preudhomme’s father Desmond is organizing the event. He is president of the short-track club based at the MasterCard Centre, the four-rink complex where the Toronto Maple Leafs practise.
One of the rinks can be expanded to international ice dimensions. It seats only 1,000, and Preudhomme and his teammates hope it will be full of new fans. It will be a first chance for them to see Olympic stars Charles Hamelin, Olivier Jean, Marianne St-Gelais, Valerie Maltais and others, including top youngsters Samuel Girard and Kim Boutin.
Three days of trials begin Friday at the Maurice Richard Arena, the national team training base. The top three men and women to accumulate points at the trials get direct entry into the first four World Cup meets of the season. Three more men and three more women will be picked by the coaching staff based on their performances and potential.
Preudhomme, 22, from Toronto, made his breakthrough last season when he was selected for World Cups in Asia. He won bronze in his first-ever World Cup 500-metre race in China, and made three finals in South Korea.
“It was really amazing,” said Preudhomme. ” In my first senior international competitions I surpassed my expectations.
“Now I’ve seen what I can do and how I can perform, so it’s just a matter of qualifying and getting out there and doing it.”
The 24 year old Duffy, from Oakville, Ont., became a national team regular for the first time in 2014-’15 and wants to keep that position.
“It’s important just to be consistent, take what I learned from last years World Cups and apply it in a more efficient way,” said Duffy.
Duffy and Preudhomme are among only seven of the 28 skaters on the national team and national development team who are not from Quebec, the short-track hotbed that has more 50 clubs across the province.
But the sport is picking up across Canada. Currently, there are national training centres in Montreal and Calgary. The hope eventually is to add centres in Toronto and Vancouver.
“It’s getting there,” said Duffy. “The sport is making more of a name for itself, starting with (the 2010 Winter Games in) Vancouver.
“I think there are a lot of kids flocking to the sport. They see it as something new and exciting. Since I started skating in Oakville 12 years ago, the club has tripled in size.”
For team veterans like St-Gelais, it will be a first competition in Toronto. She looks forward to winning over new fans.
“At the beginning, short-track was here in Quebec but since Vancouver we saw some clubs everywhere in Canada,” she said. “Events like the one in Toronto will be perfect for that because we want to show the sport and to show that everybody can skate and everybody can see it.”
Guillaume Bastille of Riviere-du-Loup, Que., will miss the trials with a shoulder injury.
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press