SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers' Smyth, Pronger get the call

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Chris Pronger was a lock. Michael Peca was not.

Somewhere between was Ryan Smyth, who wasn't a sure bet to be named to Team Canada yesterday for the 2006 Olympics like Pronger was, despite the multiple times he'd draped himself in the Maple Leaf. Nor was Smyth a longshot with no shot, like Peca.

That made for some tossing and turning for the Edmonton Oilers forward as he waited to find out whether he'd be pulling on his Captain Canada cape one more time or staying home - taking a spot on the couch instead of on the international stage.

Smyth is resting considerably easier today - no couch required - after being named to Canada's 23-man roster along with Pronger at an afternoon news conference at General Motors Place yesterday.

"It's obviously a great feeling to officially hear it," said Smyth, one of 13 forwards named to the team. "There are so many great players out there. It isn't easy to get selected. I'm honoured to be a part of this."

CANADA'S CAPTAIN

Smyth, 29, has played in seven consecutive World Championships, the last five as Team Canada's captain. He celebrated a gold medal at the 2002 Olympics and another at the 2004 World Cup. Smyth's also got the World Junior Championship on his resume.

Smyth is Canada's games-played leader at the World Championships with 60 games. Still, until Oilers GM Kevin Lowe phoned him at the team hotel just before the announcement, he wasn't sure.

"From past experience, it's the thrill of a lifetime," said Smyth, who made his first phone call to his mother Dixie in Alberta after his selection was made official. "I was calm about it, then I got really excited."

With a preliminary list of 81 candidates to choose from, naming a 23-man roster and three-man taxi squad meant more than one good player would not get the call.

With 14-11-25 going into last night's game with the Canucks, Smyth didn't get the nod for his offensive prowess. But he's versatile and willing to be a checker and fill in here and there, if that's what it takes.

More than anything, Smyth competes.

"He goes into those areas a lot of people shy away from," said Vancouver's Ed Jovanovski, who made the Canadian squad on defence. "Ryan goes hard to the net. He gets those garbage goals. He sets great screens. He's excellent along the boards. He's represented Canada in so many international events, and that's a big feather in his cap."

When Smyth made the grade for Salt Lake, he had to overcome a badly broken ankle - an injury that limited him to 61 games with the Oilers - to win the gold medal he keeps tucked away at home.

'MOST EXCITING THING'

"The most exciting thing going to these Olympics is that athletes train their whole life to get to one Olympics every four years," Smyth said.

"We play a game that we love and we're very fortunate to have the NHL. We have a job. They have to go earn that job. That's what's special about seeing the other athletes."

This time around, a sprained ligament in his left knee kept Smyth off the ice for seven games, but he's more than ready to go.

"Injuries play a part in the choices," he said. "For the most part, I've been pretty healthy. I felt really good coming into this season.

"First and foremost, my priority is the Oilers, but it's exciting to even be one of those players on the list. I've totally enjoyed every minute I've played and I hope to play many more."


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