SUN Hockey Pool

The Italian job

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

Christmas is sometimes full of contrast.

There is so much buildup, so much anticipation and so many expectations that by the time the big event finally arrives, your spirit has been sapped.

Well, today is Christmas Day for 23 Canadian NHL players and you can't blame them if they're a little tired of all the questions and all the speculation over who will ultimately be named to Team Canada for February's Turin Olympics.

"I really don't have much to say about it," Calgary Flames defenceman Robyn Regehr cordially told a mass of media yesterday hoping to hear whether he expects his name to be read when the announcement is made from Vancouver at 3 p.m. today.

Regehr, who is virtually guaranteed a spot thanks to his status as one of the best all-around defenders in hockey, will keep his fingers crossed but until the call comes from Team Canada brass, he's keeping his mind on helping the Flames win games.

Some kids, though, get even more excited on Christmas Eve. Jarome Iginla is one of them.

"I've thought about it. I've been thinking about it, reading the papers and things like that," said Iginla yesterday with his trademark smile spread wide across his face.

Iginla is as close to a sure thing as there can be when it comes to naming Canada's Olympic squad, though the Flames captain remains humble.

"I'm going to hope for the best. I'd love to be there. I know they have a lot of very tough decisions so I'll just see (today)."

As for all the talk over the past few weeks, Iginla understands.

Hockey is Canada's game and Canada has a gold medal to defend.

"I don't think there's too much," Iginla said of the hype. "It's an Olympic year and Olympics are very special. As a fan, I'd love to see what the team's going to be, too. As a player, I'd love to be on it. It's nice that one way or another, we'll all know what the team will be."

While Regehr is relatively reluctant to discuss his chances and eager for the focus to return to the NHL product on the ice, Iginla threw a vote of confidence the defender's way.

"I think his chances will be great," Iginla said of Regehr. "He played outstanding at the World Cup. He's one of the toughest defencemen to play against. He's a big guy, everybody knows that, but he's very quick. He's very physical and his foot speed's great.

"I know there's a ton of great Canadian d-men to choose from but I think his chances will be awesome."

There are plenty of players on the bubble today.

Two players, however, not going to Turin are Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman, who withdrew their names because of health issues. Many feel that leaves Canada with a big hole in the leadership department.

Iginla, though, says there will be no lack of leadership regardless of who makes the final cut.

"Not having Mario and Steve, they're definitely tough people to replace -- two of the best ever to play the game and two of the best leaders. For all the players who've had a chance to play with them, they definitely left a presence and had a good influence on all the players.

"From my experiences with the World Cup and the last Olympics, leadership is always strong. Joe Sakic's an unbelievable leader and he's coming back. I'm not sure who's going to be there so I can't name (them) but I think it's a strength of the Canadian team."


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