Leaf worthy of Turin ticket

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:58 AM ET

Aside from the inclusion of controversial figure Todd Bertuzzi on the team bound for the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy, only one name has been debated as frequently in fan circles across the country.

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Bryan McCabe -- and he was named to the three-man taxi squad, not the main list of 23 representatives.

Despite McCabe's hectic point pace, which has him projected to rack up nearly 100 in total by the end of the season, some skeptics seem to believe the 30-year-old blueliner was added only because his NHL coach, Pat Quinn, will also be behind the bench in Italy.

"I don't know who's saying that but they're way off base," Quinn said yesterday at the Saddledome before his Leafs took on the Calgary Flames in their only meeting of the season last night.

"He was part of our group to be considered in each of the years that I've been involved with this thing. And that's dating back to '97 when he was on the (world championship) gold medal team that won in Finland. He was a good contributor then."

Quinn should know. He was Team Canada's manager that year. The fact McCabe has been omitted from Team Canada since says a lot about the boss' objectivity.

"Each year, he's been right in the mix," Quinn said of his star, who had 15 goals and 32 assists, more than any other NHL defenceman prior to last night's game against the Flames. "At the end of the day, when it came down to it, he was the seventh or eighth guy.

"It wasn't to appease anyone, just look at what he's accomplished."

The blueline was the area most difficult to pare when Quinn and the rest of the Team Canada brass made their final selections. Flames rookie Dion Phaneuf was discussed but ultimately left off the team, although he'll surely be a part of many future Olympic teams.

Robyn Regehr, one of two Flames players to make the Canadian squad, was a much easier choice.

"We don't get to see Robyn much back in the east but all the guys that do see him a lot have come to appreciate how he plays the game," said Quinn. "Certainly, I have as well, having him in the World Cup (last year).

"He's a solid two-way player. He's positionally really sound. As far as our scouts or our management staff was concerned, there wasn't any doubt about him being included."

Flames captain Jarome Iginla also left little room for debate.

"He's really developed since four years ago when he was a fill-in for our practice here because he was close," said Quinn, recalling the training camp in Calgary prior to the 2001-02 NHL season.

"And then had such a good three days that he got into the decision mix."

Turns out Iginla had more impressing to do to make it impossible for executive director Wayne Gretzky and his staff to omit him from the Salt Lake City team.

"Boy, he started out like a house afire that season," Quinn said of what would turn out to be a 52-goal, 96-point season for Iginla. "By halfway through, when we were deciding on the team, he'd forced his way right in.

"He's continued to become a leader and a solid player in the game. We look for him to be part of our future leadership."


Videos

Photos