Olympic snub stings Savard

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

BOSTON -- Standing in a corridor deep in the bowels of the cavernous TD Banknorth Garden, Marc Savard is taking the high road.

No, he insists, he is not bitter at Hockey Canada for not inviting him to the Olympic orientation camp in Calgary last month.

His main focus now, he says, is leading his Boston Bruins to a championship.

And he maintains that, as a 32-year-old father with three kids, he has matured from the volatile personality that locked horns with then-Flames coach Greg Gilbert in Calgary seven years ago.

It all sounds good.

Too good.

But he can only bite his tongue for so long.

Sure enough, after a few minutes, he comes clean.

"It really upset me," Savard admitted yesterday about being passed over by Team Canada officials. "Deep down inside it really hurt."

Savard was not the only one affected by the news on that July 2 morning when the list of invitees was made public. His mother, who was visiting her son's Peterborough-area residence at the time, was devastated, too.

She wasn't alone.

"The next day, people kept coming up to me at the golf course saying: 'I can't believe you weren't picked,' " Savard recounted. "There were lots of phone calls from people saying the same thing.

"I understood there are a lot of great players in Canada. Just look at all the quality centres. Having said that, I didn't want to talk about it for a long time."

Savard's on-ice credentials certainly are worthy of recognition.

During his past three seasons with the Bruins, he has averaged 89 points per campaign, ranking him among the top-10 scorers in that span.

At the same time, Savard knows how some NHL types view him from a reputation standpoint.

There remain those in the hockey world who still consider him a selfish player, one who is reluctant to play defence and, to be blunt, can be a difficult teammate.

"It's funny how one situation with a coach in Calgary years ago continues to stick with you," he said.

There is no doubt that Savard, just a know-it-all kid of 24 back in 2002, was a pain in the butt to Flames management.

Frustrated at his reluctance to concentrate on his defensive duties, Gilbert and general manager Craig Button finally gave the brash Savard his wish to be traded, shipping him to Atlanta.

Years later, Bruins coach Claude Julien paints a different picture of Savard, one of a team leader who works well with young players and competes through pain.

"When I took over here (in 2007), he was at the stage of his career where one of the first things he wanted to do was make the playoffs, something he had never done before," Julien said.

"I told him that, in order to do that, he was going to have to be a two-way player. He listened.

"People don't see that this is a guy who plays hard and plays hurt. He doesn't like to miss games. And he really wants to help the young guys on the team.

"I can understand (his disappointment). He was probably on that list of (Olympic candidates). He certainly played well enough to be there. But the people running (Team Canada) have difficult decisions to make."

During the 2007-08 season, Savard took a rookie under his wing named Milan Lucic. They lived close to each other. They would drive to practice together.

Two years later, Lucic was invited to the Olympic camp. Savard wasn't.

"Deep down, I'm motivated by the whole thing," said Savard, who is happy for Lucic.

"I just have to go out there and do my best.

"If I start out hot, well, the rest will take care of itself."

MIKE.ZEISBERGER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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