TORONTO — It's the moment Canada's finest winter athletes become one mighty team.
The Canadian team will march into the opening ceremonies Feb. 9 at the Pyeongchang Olympics dressed in the patriotic red-white-and-black apparel, in what is a virtual starting gun for the Games.
"Everybody puts on that one jacket before the opening ceremonies, I think that's when it all becomes real," said ski jumper Taylor Henrich. "You're here as a team. . . and I feel confident when I put it on, I'm like 'Wow, this is so cool. So cool.'"
Fifteen athletes walked the runway at a downtown Toronto mall on Tuesday as Hudson's Bay Co., unveiled its Team Canada collection for Pyeongchang. The patriotic apparel flaunts colour blocks of Canadian red and white, plus black. The opening ceremony parka falls to the mid-thigh and features "Canada" emblazoned across the chest in bold white letters, and a large white Maple Leaf on the back.
"Being able to walk into opening ceremonies with the whole team, all wearing those red jackets, it was a special moment," long-track speedskater Gilmore Junio said about the 2014 Sochi Olympics. "Definitely felt unified as Team Canada, and I think that really gave us a lot of momentum going into the Olympics."
Medal podium outfits feature a puffy red coat, while the athletes will march in the closing ceremonies in red and black softshell jackets. The collection also features buffalo check shirts, tuques and ball caps, and onesie pyjamas with a winter sport motif.
"I loved (the pyjamas)," said Henrich, who modelled the onesie at Tuesday's show. "I first put them on, I was like 'They're comfy, I could definitely walk around the Olympic village in it,' Why not right? It's Canadian."
The athletes said they'll never forget the day they received their Canadian team gear.
"It's like Christmas when you open that up. It feels unbelievable to put this on, and really motivating," said curler John Morris.
"I think that's kind of when it sinks in and when it feels real," added fellow curler Rachel Homan. "You win and you qualify, and that's an exciting moment in itself. But once you're able to finally put on that gear that you're going to be competing in on an Olympic stage is kind of really that moment where you really get excited, and really feel a part of a team."
The style and colours, said Hudson's Bay Co. president Alison Coville, draws on the "strength and beauty of our country, the backdrops of the mountains and the white in the snow." Canada's kits are traditionally among the most popular at Olympic Games, and Coville said Pyeongchang will be no different.
"We want them to put on those uniforms and feel they're the best dressed at the Olympics, and we do believe that's really been the case for many years now," she said.
Canadian athletes competing in the Paralympics, which open March 9, will be outfitted with the same kit, but with some modifications to fit athlete needs.
"We do a lot of research and thinking and working with the teams to make sure that the kit is in keeping with anyone who has a disability," Colville said. "So if you're in a wheelchair or you have disabilities, the uniforms work with that as well, so they're cut differently, proportions and pockets, and all those things are looked at very closely."
Brian McKeever, who will make his fifth Olympic appearance in Pyeongchang, said receiving his Canadian team gear never gets old.
"It's when you know you're getting close to go time," said McKeever, a 10-time Paralympic gold medallist. "You roll into the village and you show up in your dorm room, and the atmosphere is building, and then you unzip that (Team Canada) package and there it is, and it's stuff that brings us together as a team and as a nation."
Pyeongchang features the ninth edition of the red mittens that have become symbols of Canadian Olympic pride.
Mitten sales have contributed more than $30 million to the Canadian Olympic Foundation. The money raised helps provide access to coaching, equipment, sport medicine, nutrition and other high-performance resources. Mittens retail for $15, with $3.90 going to the Canadian Olympic Foundation.
"I travel around the world and meet with my colleagues from different national Olympic committees, and (the mittens) are in many ways the envy of the international committee, and such a great expression of support," said Chris Overholt, the CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee. "It's appropriately Canadian, it's subtle in its own way, but it's really come to mean something for the country and for the fans, and by extension the athletes. They've also been a huge part of how we fund our athletes."
Replica wear will be available at all Hudson's Bay locations across Canada. The collection is priced from $10 to $114.99 for accessories, $20 to $55 for kids/infants, and $35 to $225 for adults clothing and outerwear.
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press