When his cellphone rang midway through dinner at Wade Redden's golf tournament, Chris Phillips started looking around the room.
"Chris, it's Wayne Gretzky calling," said the voice on the other end of the line.
"When you hear that it's Wayne Gretzky,'' Phillips recalled yesterday, ''your first reaction is to try to figure out which one of your buddies is trying to pull a prank on you ... Given the situation and knowing the voice, I knew it wasn't a joke.
''I've got to tell you, it was pretty exciting."
The Senators defenceman was thrilled to accept an invitation from Gretzky -- the executive director of Canada's Olympic team -- to a training and orientation camp for 36 players set for Vancouver and Kelowna, B.C., next month.
Phillips, Redden and Ottawa native Dan Boyle are among the 12 defencemen selected for the camp, which starts Canada's preparation for the 2006 Turin Games.
No roster decisions will be made at the informal camp -- it's still not certain if NHL players will even participate in Turin -- but it will give Gretzky and coach Pat Quinn a chance to evaluate candidates.
Phillips heard from Gretzky after he had finished his round at the golf tournament that Redden hosts with Edmonton Oilers defenceman Cory Cross in Lloydminster, Alta.
"It was really kind of neat how it all happened,'' Phillips said. ''We were at the banquet and I was kind of standing beside Wade when I got the call from Wayne. Wade had been called earlier and it was fun to share it with him.
"When you grow up in Canada, this is the kind of opportunity you want and this has been a goal of mine. This makes going to the world championships last spring all worth it. I wanted to show I could help Canada at the international level and this means a lot to me. To have the chance to play at the Olympics is something I've thought a lot about."
NEVER OLD HAT
You might think this has all become old hat for Redden. The Senators blueliner attended a camp prior to the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, but missed a spot on Canada's eventual gold medal-winning squad by one vote among the staff. However, he was a member of Canada's championship World Cup team last year.
"You still get excited," Redden said yesterday. "I got the call when I was on the course and (Gretzky) just said he wanted me to come down to Kelowna to take part in the camp. This is the kind of chance that you want.
"You always want to play for your country. Hopefully, this time I'll be successful and get the chance to play in the Olympics."
Phillips said the Turin Games will just be one more good reason to have a strong season.
"You know that they're going to be watching you and you've got to be ready. You can't wait to get back on the ice," he said.