Let juniors go for Olympic gold

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:02 PM ET

This month was supposed to be the deadline set by the International Ice Hockey Federation for NHL players to be included in the Winter Olympics a year from now. It's not looking good for their participation now (though if there still isn't a CBA in place this time next year, what's to stop the locked-out NHLers from playing with their national teams?).

After two Olympics of best-on-best, it's going to be a bit of a downer to go back to college kids and Canadians playing in Europe making up Team Canada at the Olympics.

So, if the NHLers aren't available, why not shift the world junior tournament to the Olympics and let the kids play for Olympic gold and the world title?

It would be better for TV ratings, especially in Canada.

The International Olympic Committee already does something similar in the Summer Olympics by having countries' under-23 teams compete in soccer.

Just a thought.

HEAR AND THERE: The Ferrari team visited with the Pope during its recent visit to the Vatican. As if they need more help, the Pope gave Michael Shumacher one of those little statues of Jesus to put on his dashboard ... They're making a big deal in the States about two black quarterbacks playing each other in the NFC championship. We just take it for granted up here where the Canadian Football League has been way ahead in opening the door to the black QB.

REVELATIONS: Wow, you know things are looking up for the CFL when they have their winter meetings at the posh Breakers Hotel in Florida rather than in Edmonton ... Golf poolies: Ernie Els was Golf World's pick to be the top money earner on the PGA Tour this year ... Interesting how an 18 followed by six zeroes can overcome the 99-1 odds Roger Clemens had set on returning for another season, huh?

SPECULATIONS: Are you ready for the Pepsi or Ford or Wal-Mart Grey Cup? I'm not ... Ron Artest, banned for a year from playing in the NBA, could return to practise with the Indiana Pacers as early as next week. He admits he's not in game shape. He'll take it easy at the start, just working on his verbal insults before progressing to bench jumping and chasing fans in the stands. You don't want to overdo it in the early going.

JUST WONDERING: What do you get when former 67's Zenon Konopka and Corey Locke meet on opposing teams in the American Hockey League? Big restaurant tabs. They had a party of 100 friends and family when their teams met in Hamilton last week ... Former NHLer Esa Tikkanen is now playing and coaching in South Korea. Known for his own language when he played in the NHL ("Tikkanense"), he must be an interpreter's nightmare there.

LET ME SAY THIS ABOUT THAT: The idiot of the week was the promoter of the CHL Prospects Game who took junior star Sidney Crosby to task for not showing up for the game in Vancouver. The kid's got the top spot in the draft sewed up and a bad back, so what did he have to gain by playing? We all know there's nothing like a transcontinental flight for a bad back, huh? ... Only in Canada: A fan blasting the NHL for the lockout in his obituary. I love it.

NAPKIN NOTES: No matter where he goes, the story is the same for Peter Forsberg. Another country, another regular season ended by injury ... My picks for the NFL conference championships today, for what they are worth (which is about as much as a pair of Senators tickets for the 2004-05 season): Pats coach Bill Belichek will look very cold and wet on the sidelines, Falcons QB Michael Vick will find out you can't run in snow shoes and Steelers rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger will look, well, like a rookie.

PARTING SHOT: They're showing movies instead of NHL hockey on CBC on Saturday nights. Next week's offering: Norman Rae. A remake of the 1979 flick Norma Rae which won Sally Field an Oscar. Trevor Linden plays Norman, leading exploited players to the promised land of unionization. A key moment is when Norman and the other players run into the fans who pay their salaries. A memorable line: "You don't like us, you really don't like us." ... The rumours were Wednesday's meeting between the NHL and the players' association was going to be in a non-NHL city. Turns out it was Chicago, so the rumours were true.

CYBERSPACED (the way e-mails should be): nhlhockey@rockandahardplace.com

chris.stevenson@ott.sunpub.com


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