SUN Hockey Pool

In a forgiving mood

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

Inviting as much public scorn as sympathy, those in charge of defending hockey gold in Turin boldly have declared: "My Team Canada includes Todd Bertuzzi."

Bertuzzi's inclusion at the expense of taxi-squad talent such as Eric Staal and rookie phenom Sidney Crosby, was guaranteed to be the most controversial pick of the committee, even if the Vancouver Canucks power winger's play the past few weeks strengthened his case on ability alone. It's his history that is creating some bad optics, 21 months after a hit on Steve Moore that likely has ended the latter's career.

"I think a big part of being Canadian is being able to forgive," said assistant executive director Kevin Lowe last night after the 23-man roster and three alternates were unveiled in Vancouver. "He has had a number of steps to this point and this is a real opportunity for him and for the country. He's one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult forward in the game to handle down low."

Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson, who represents thousands of impressionable minor hockey players coast to coast, said he was proud of the "due dilligence" the Wayne Gretzky-led committee did on each player.

"Todd did wrong and Hockey Canada supports what the NHL did (in not lifting his suspension until the start of this season). But the time has come to move on. He didn't play in the last world championship or the World Cup."

Nicholson added that he wasn't worried about a report that factions in the Canadian Olympic Committee might oppose Bertuzzi's involvement in the Games, along with Dany Heatley, who was behind the wheel when Atlanta Thrashers teammate Dan Snyder was killed in a car crash in 2003.

Staal, the exciting forward on the Carolina Hurricanes, was picked for the reserves, along with Maple Leafs defenceman Bryan McCabe. The latter will see action only if there is an injury to Rob Blake, Adam Foote, Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Wade Redden, Robyn Regehr or Ed Jovanovski.

Ottawa Senators' Jason Spezza also made it to the taxi squad, but five of the league's top seven Canadian-born scorers before last night -- Spezza, Staal, McCabe, Marc Savard and Patrick Marleau -- aren't on the main roster.

"We're not building a team on statistics," Lowe insisted. "Sidney could represent us in 2010, but at this time, we're going to go with proven players who have won (at the international level)."

That was the thought process that convinced Gretzky and Co., to bring back 10 gold medallists from Salt Lake City in 2002, with Joe Sakic named captain. They are backed by those who earned their spurs at the 2004 World Cup.

Gretzky was not in Vancouver, as he prepares for the funeral of his mother, Phyllis, this morning in Brantford. The 64-year-old died of lung cancer on Monday night. But Wayne Gretzky was part of yesterday morning's final conference call.

"We followed the same guidlines as in 2002," assistant coach Jacques Martin said. "We have players who read the game well and can adjust to any situation. We know they will perform well under pressure and we have some new blood from the World Cup, such as Vince Lecavalier and Joe Thornton."

Rick Nash was given the benefit of the doubt that his injured leg will be fit by the start of the Olympic tournament on Feb. 15.


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