Hockey Canada plans for future

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

Canada could be poorer in talent and development money when the 2005 world championships and 2006 Turin Olympics roll around.

With the National Hockey League lockout hurting the country's chances of icing its best team to defend its respective gold medals, Hockey Canada is examining a fallback plan of using minor pros and Canadians in Europe, at least for next year's world championships in Austria.

A lost 2004-05 season would likely cancel NHL participation in Turin because of scheduling issues.

SCHEDULING ISSUES

"If (the minor pros) are going to be part of Turin, we must give them (the best calibre of play) to prepare them," Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson said yesterday on a conference call. "We won't close the door on players such as (NHLers) Ryan Smyth, Shawn Horcoff and Eric Brewer, who've been there for Canada in the past. But there will be no guarantees to anybody. We'll wait until January (when the fate of the 2004-05 NHL season should be decided)."

Those not on NHL rosters will represent Canada at a number of international events, including the Deutschland Cup next month as well as the Slovakia and Spengler Cups in December. But the United States is taking a different approach, naming 16 NHLers, including goalie Rick DiPietro and forward David Legwand to its Deutschland roster yesterday, hoping for the best-case scenario in Turin.

Hockey Canada might also establish a full-time men's team in preparation for the two tournaments. But the lockout would make such an endeavor an expensive one. Without the NHL's live gate generating financial contributions for Hockey Canada, the cost could be prohibitive unless sponsors or government assistance is gained.

"We can't sit here and look at excuses, whether we have NHLers or don't have NHLers," Nicholson said. "We have to do our preparation and keep moving forward."


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