Friends now, foes in Turin

GEORGE GROSS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:31 AM ET

Club or country? Friend or foe?

These are the questions that will have to be answered by up to six members of the Maple Leafs.

It is likely that Bryan McCabe will represent Team Canada in the Turin Olympics hockey tournament, replacing the ailing Ed Jovanovski of the Vancouver Canucks.

His Maple Leafs defence partner, Tomas Kaberle, will play for the Czech Republic, while his captain, Mats Sundin and goalie Mikael Tellqvist, will wear Sweden's Tre Kroner yellow jerseys and Aki Berg, sore ribs and all, may be in uniform for Finland.

The common denominator, or should I say dominator, for all five players is head coach Pat Quinn, the responsible boss of the Leafs who will stand behind the bench and guide Team Canada's Olympic team.

I wanted to find out just how deep team and friendship ties went when put up against the ties of nationalistic heritage. For instance, I wondered how Sundin might feel if McCabe cross-checked him from behind to protect his net in a Canada-Sweden game or whether McCabe would consider issuing the cross-check in the first place. And, what if Kaberle tripped McCabe when the latter tried to break loose in an odd-man rush in a Canada-Czech Republic contest.

And what would Quinn do if any of these things happened just as the Leafs become engaged in the final phase of the playoff race? How would he coach against players he knows so well?

"I expect all players will be happy to represent their respective countries," Quinn said. "They will know that they are playing against their teammates, but I expect them to be professionals and play as such.

"As for myself, I'll do everything I can to have my Leaf players who are in uniforms of other countries wind up on the losing side."

Kaberle, the gifted defencemen whom some critics wanted to run out of town a couple of years ago but who today are in love with him, looks at facing McCabe or Sundin quite stoically.

"If any of them try to run me, or cross-check me, they'll, hopefully, get a penalty and we could take advantage of it. It's a big test to play against your regular teammates, but as professionals we are expected to give it our all. I expect close games, a number of one-goal decisions."

Sundin, who is beginning to round into form and may just explode at the Turin Olympics, took the issue from the lighter side.

"I don't expect Tomas or Bryan to cross-check or hit me in an unfair manner," Sundin said, "because when I'll skate with the puck towards them, I'll just say: 'Get out of my way, it's Mats and I'm coming through.' Seriously, though, they are character players and will do their best for their country, as I and Mikael (Tellqvist) will."

McCabe didn't want to commit himself. He doesn't believe in theories, but likes to deal with facts. I'm sure that when he plays against Kaberle, he may wish that one of Team Canada's players would set him up for one of his murderous slapshots the way Kaberle does when they both are wearing the same uniform -- and he'll hope that Kaberle can't block the shot for more than one reason.

GROSSLY ABBREVIATED

Former Leafs greats Darryl Sittler, Borje Salming, Wendel Clark and Doug Gilmour are just some of the Leafs alumni who will participate in the Baycrest Pro-Am Invitational tournament in aid of Alzheimer's disease research. The tournament will be held March 24 and 25 at York University's Ice Gardens arena. The goal is to raise one million dollars. For fundraising info call Lorraine Quartaro at 416-703-5371 (236) ... Some claim the fix was in for Halifax to receive Canada's nomination to bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. When the four Canadian bidders presented their bids to the Canadian Commonwealth Games Association, York Region's budget was $797 million, Hamilton's $810 million, Ottawa's $780 million and Halifax's $550 million. Former IOC member Paul Henderson, his daughter Martha and Olympian Doug Hamilton worked their butts off for the York Region bid and had several solid recommendations, but York's amateur politicians turned them down. The Hendersons then resigned and York was beaten out by lowly Halifax.


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