SUN Hockey Pool

Leo in Olympic Games

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

EDMONTON -- He has worn the red, white and blue in the World Cup and world junior championships.

In February, Calgary Flames defenceman Jordan Leopold can add the Olympics to his resume.

The 25-year-old was among the 23 players named to the U.S. Olympic team yesterday.

Although it was hard for him to celebrate after a last-minute 5-4 loss in Edmonton last night, he was excited about the opportunity.

"I found out this morning. Darryl (Flames GM/head coach Sutter) told me this morning," said Leopold. "I was excited."

Leopold will be joined on defence by Detroit Red Wings veteran Chris Chelios, who will be 44 by the time the tournament begins, fellow first timer John-Michael Liles (Colorado), Derian Hatcher (Philadelphia) and Mathieu Schneider (Detroit) -- who both played in the Nagano Olympics in 1988 -- as well as 2002 returnees Aaron Miller (Los Angeles) and Brian Rafalski (New Jersey).

The seven blueliners were a hot topic when GM Don Waddell, assistant GM Paul Holmgren and the rest of the staff met Sunday night to finalize the list. Waddell explained how they made their difficult choices.

"We had a lot of players playing very well," Waddell said. "We said all along that we were going to base this team on not so much what was the history of players ... but how guys were actually playing."

Leopold has just four assists for the Flames this season after posting 33 points (9g, 24a) in 2003-04. The addition of Roman Hamrlik and solid play of rookie Dion Phaneuf has cut into the Minnesota product's playing time on special teams but Leopold has been an offensive factor for the U.S. in the past.

He led Team USA's blueline corps and was fourth in team scoring during the 2003 world championship. Still, he wasn't sure his Olympic dream would come true.

"I didn't know if it was going to happen or not," said Leopold. "I was kind of 50-50, I haven't had the strongest season this year. Evidently they feel they want me and can use me so I'm honoured. I'm happy I get the opportunity to represent my country."

Tony Amonte, a two-time Olympian and the only other Flame thought to have a shot at cracking the U.S. squad, was not selected.

The American forwards will be anchored by the experience of Mike Modano (Dallas), Doug Weight and Keith Tkachuk (St. Louis) -- if Tkachuk's mashed knuckles heal in time for the Games. Former Flame Chris Drury (Buffalo), Brian Rolston (Minnesota) and Dallas' Bill Guerin have also been to the Olympics before.

Injecting new blood into the lineup are New Jersey's Brian Gionta, Jason Blake and Mark Parrish (New York Islanders), Erik Cole (Carolina), Scott Gomez (New Jersey) and Mike Knuble (Philadelphia).

Another former Flame, Craig Conroy -- whose L.A. Kings play Calgary tomorrow night at the 'Dome -- rounds out the list of forwards.

In goal, 24-year-old Rick DiPietro (New York Islanders) is expected to get most of the work, while Robert Esche (Philadelphia) and John Grahame (Tampa Bay) back him up.

USA Hockey was the first to announce its roster. Team Canada will announce its lineup tomorrow, a day before the deadline set by the International Ice Hockey Federation.


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