Phaneuf blindsided

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

The fact Jarome Iginla was on the preliminary list for Canada's Olympic team should surprise nobody.

Ditto for Robyn Regehr.

But the fact Dion Phaneuf is one of the 81 NHLers designated by the Hockey Canada braintrust, led by Wayne Gretzky, to be part of Team Canada even caught the Flames rookie defenceman by surprise.

"I didn't even know they were naming it today," Phaneuf said. "To be named is very special. I'd be lying if I said it didn't catch me off guard."

The 23-man final roster must be submitted by Dec. 22 for the Turin Games in February.

Phaneuf isn't the only freshman given consideration. Carolina netminder Cam Ward, Philadelphia forward Jeff Carter and Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby are the other rookies among the nine goalies, 23 defencemen and 49 forwards who were named.

Although it's unlikely any of them will be part of the team that will go for gold, just being considered is an accolade.

"It's very nice to be recognized," he said. "With saying that, there's a lot of work to do yet but it's an honour to be named to that list.

"I think it's every kid's dream growing up in Canada to play for his country, whether it be world juniors or the Olympics or the World Cup. It's something that's very special and any time you wear your country's flag it's a special time, not only to the players but to all of the country."

Iginla, part of Canada's gold medal-winning squad in 2002, was thrilled for his teammate.

"He's been a big part of Hockey Canada all the way growing up and, as a young defenceman for us, he's been great," Iginla said.

"In a lot of people's minds, he's going to be in the Olympics sooner than later. Hopefully, it's sooner."

Although Iginla is likely a shoo-in for the squad, he's not taking it for granted.

"I'd love to be there again. It's so much fun," he said. "I had an unbelievable experience and great time that year in Salt Lake."

Team Canada brass will base many of its personnel decisions on players' performance during the NHL campaign.

Phaneuf, who has collected one goal and two assists, has been one of Calgary's best players this season and it's unlikely he'll feel any extra pressure to perform.

"All I can do is play on the ice and control how I play. All I do is come to the rink each day and try to improve and that's been my goal each day," he said.


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