Sens join Olympic quest

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:20 AM ET

Senators winger Dany Heatley and defenceman Wade Redden have officially joined the chase for Olympic hockey gold.

With centre Jason Spezza waiting in the wings.

The much-anticipated announcement of Canada's team for the Turin Olympics was made yesterday at General Motors Place in Vancouver. Heatley and Redden were among the 23 players selected for the team, with Spezza joining Carolina's Eric Staal and Toronto's Brian McCabe on a three-man reserve squad.

It's a group Team Canada management is confident can successfully defend the gold Canada won in Salt Lake City in 2002 -- the country's first Olympic hockey triumph in 50 years.

"The 26 players we selected today are the ones who we feel will get us (back) to that gold-medal circle," said Team Canada coach Pat Quinn.

Instead of going with a new look for Turin, Canadian executive director Wayne Gretzky and his staff decided to take a page from the past. The team headed to Italy includes 10 players who were part of the golden crew in Salt Lake City. In all, 20 players own gold medals from either Salt Lake or the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, which Canada also won.

Given the number of veterans, there wasn't room on the regular roster for Spezza, who was tied for fourth among NHL scorers heading into last night's games.

"I was disappointed to not be (one of the) 23 guys who dress," said Spezza from Philadelphia last night. "On the other hand, I was happy to be amongst that group of players who is going over there and getting the chance to learn. I'm looking forward to going there. We did everything we could to get noticed."

But this day was not without debate. Instead of placing Staal or Spezza on the regular roster, the Canadian staff elected to make them alternates and instead named controversial Canucks forward Todd Bertuzzi to the team.

In 2004, Bertuzzi was suspended for attacking Colorado's Steve Moore during a game, an incident which also led to legal action.

Canadian officials admitted there was a lot of debate over Bertuzzi's inclusion. The word is the Canadian Olympic Committee isn't thrilled with the decision to put him on the squad, but they're not expected to block the move.

"It's time for Canada to forgive and forget in the case of Todd Bertuzzi," said Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson. "We don't agree with what Todd Bertuzzi did and we know what he did was wrong.

"But Todd Bertuzzi has come a long way in the last couple of weeks and he's playing the kind of hockey we're used to seeing him play. We want a guy like Todd Bertuzzi on our team, because we feel like he can help us. We think he's going to be a big part of our team."

Left off the team was Pittsburgh rookie hotshot Sidney Crosby, but Canadian officials are certain he'll be a major part of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic squad.

"As (Gretzky) noted this morning, Sidney Crosby could be our captain in 2010," said Edmonton GM Kevin Lowe, the assistant executive director. "We felt like we wanted to have players there who have done it for us before. We know what they can do and the young players are going to get their chance to play."

Not surprisingly, Colorado centre Joe Sakic was named captain to replace the departed Mario Lemieux, while veterans Rob Blake, Adam Foote, Scott Niedermayer, Joe Thornton and Vincent Lecavalier are all back on board.

"We could name two teams in this country and both would have a chance to compete," said Lowe. "We've done a lot of talking over the last few months and the decisions are never easy. The goal in Canada is to win gold and we wanted to select the players who we felt would help us do that. The problem with these young players is you haven't seen them at these elite levels. The guys we've selected have played at these levels."

Before naming the team, Lowe read a statement from Gretzky thanking hockey fans for their best wishes after the death of his mother Phyllis from cancer on Monday. The funeral is today in Brantford.

"This is a great day for Canadian hockey and congratulations to everyone," Gretzky said via Lowe. "I know my mom was looking forward to this day, as every Canadian is."


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