McCabe gets the call

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:05 AM ET

BOSTON -- Bryan McCabe was at Pearson International Airport preparing to fly to Boston with his Maple Leafs teammates yesterday afternoon when his phone rang.

The voice on the other end was Canadian Olympic team executive director Wayne Gretzky, who took time out from grieving the death of his mother, Phyllis, to pass on a message.

"Congratulations Bryan," The Great One said, informing McCabe that he had landed a spot on Team Canada's taxi squad along with Eric Staal and Jason Spezza.

"What can you say about a guy who is going through the worst time of his life and still takes time out to deliver the news first hand?" McCabe said last night. "I was really really surprised at the news."

Snubbed on previous Team Canada selections, McCabe had no expectations this time. Keep in mind that he was not invited to the team's training session in B.C. back in August.

"They took 12 defencemen to that summer camp, not me," he said. "I knew I had a large hurdle to go through if I was going to be part of it. I knew it would be a tough decision for the (brass) but I felt I did what I could to earn recognition."

McCabe's 40 points were tops among NHL defencemen entering play yesterday, yet many predicted he would be overlooked in favour of Tampa Bay Lightning's Dan Boyle or Calgary Flames' Dion Phaneuf.

"I'm honoured and ecstatic to be part of this team. There are a lot of guys better than me who didn't get picked."

Jeff Solomon, McCabe's agent, didn't agree, wondering how his client was not included on the 23-man roster.

As a member of the taxi squad, McCabe can be only inserted into the lineup to replace an injured teammate. In that event, the injured player will be ineligible for the remainder of the competition.

"I think it's an honour having been selected to be among such quality elite world class defencemen," Solomon said. "Having said that, there still is a measure of disappointment because, based on quality of play, Bryan should be in that top group of seven (defencemen).

"Since the summer it has been publicly expressed that the team would be picked on the basis of who was playing the best at the time of the selection. And as great as all the players are, I don't believe there are seven defencemen who are playing better than Bryan."

Team Canada and Leafs coach Pat Quinn is familiar with McCabe's attributes.

"With Bryan, experience was a key," Quinn said. "He had a very good start for the Leafs, and he has represented Canada before, too. He won a gold at the worlds in 1997. And remember, he has been very good on the power play."

Unless one of the starting seven gets hurt, McCabe won't be able to showcase his talents in Italy.

Meanwhile, Nik Antropov and Colorado Avalanche goalie Vitaly Kolesnik were the only NHLers on Kazakhstan's Olympic roster.


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