SUN Hockey Pool

One golden opportunity

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

Most of the attention involving hockey Olympians in these parts revolves around the Maple Leaf.

But you don't have to hail from the Great White North to have golden dreams.

Flames defenceman Jordan Leopold is on the cusp of going to Turin for the U.S., arriving in Calgary after his own nation's orientation camp last week in Colorado Springs.

Although getting the Flames season off and running in their quest for the Stanley Cup is first and foremost on his mind, Leopold has a very real chance of spending his Olympic break in Italy donning the Stars and Stripes, which would be a dream come true for the Minnesota product.

"It would mean a lot to me," said the skilled defenceman.

"Growing up as a kid, I always wanted to play in the Olympics. You always want to represent your country. To have the chance to do that is really neat.

"They told us they'll decide off the first three months, so we'll see what happens. I'd be delighted to play.

"All the guys here who have played for Canada and had success really treasure that, so I'd like to get the chance."

Leopold has skated in a pair of world junior tournaments as well as three world championships. He was to partake in the World Cup of Hockey; however a concussion in an exhibition tilt just before the tournament sent him to the sidelines.

"I don't know if I was cheated because it was a case where injuries happen, that type of thing. Just a little strain of bad luck," he said.

With two NHL seasons under his belt, including the 2003-04 campaign during which he collected nine goals and 24 assists in 82 games as well as 10 helpers in the playoff run, Leopold is on the verge of taking his play to a new level. And he doesn't feel threatened one bit by the acquisition of Roman Hamrlik, who will certainly take away some of his powerplay time.

"You look at the years he's played, the experience he has -- he knows all the Xs and Os in the NHL," said Leopold, who turned 25 this summer. "Hopefully, I'll take a couple of things from his book. I'm hoping to get the opportunity to play with him but I know I'll have to earn that.

"We've brought some good guys here, not just good hockey players but also good character guys who fit in our locker-room. The guys who are older are going to fit in," he added. "It's going to be a really great opportunity for younger guys like me."

Maybe even another trip to the Stanley Cup finals where he and his teammates can possibly take that final step. It would be somewhat sweet revenge for Leopold, who was last seen by Flames fans coming oh so close to tying Game 7 only to be denied by Tampa goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin on a last-minute chance that could have pulled Calgary even.

"It was a couple of days before I stopped thinking about that chance," he admitted. "I actually watched the game. I was checking out my high-definition TV and wanted to watch a hockey game on it and there it was. To be there and be that close hurts and I had a good chance but the truth is I would have only tied the game.

"I was just thinking of hitting the net and there was a lot to shoot at but Khabibulin made a great save. I even talked to (Tampa head coach) John Tortorella about it -- he coached the world championship team -- and he said, 'That was a hell of a save Khabibulin made on you.' It ended a negative for us but won the series for them.

"I wish I could have it back but we'll have to move forward."


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