Waiting Games

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

Hockey Canada is making contingency plans if the NHL can't solve its lockout in time for players to skate at the 2006 Olympics.

Obviously, the umbrella organization would love to keep the financial boon that's come from having the pros going for gold but without the certainty Jarome Iginla and all will be in Torino, Italy, they're looking at other avenues.

"Whoever makes the decision as to NHL involvement, when that comes down, then we can take the next step as to what we want to do (for the Olympics) -- whether it's a part-time team, full-time team or NHL players," said national team head coach Marc Habscheid yesterday in Calgary.

"Right now, we still can prepare for different scenarios. We want to be pro-active and ready for whatever situation."

Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson said his organization would be able to react in time if NHL players were going to be part of the 2006 Olympics.

"There's a lot of discussion that decision will be made in January so we're going to do our preparation until January and see if there are some dates out there," he said. "Right now, though, we feel Canada can go either way and we can wait as long as anyone on when NHLers will play or won't play in Torino.

"If the NHL players aren't there, we'll look to NHL teams for their top prospects in the American Hockey League as well as players over in Europe.

"Canada certainly wants to see best-on-best," he continued. "We saw what it did in Salt Lake City with 16 million people watching that game and what it's done for Hockey Canada but we have to be prepared. If the National Hockey League and the players association agree not to go to Torino, Canadians want us to be there going for the gold medal."

Regardless of what happens between now and the 2006 Games, Nicholson still believes NHLers will take to the ice in the 2010 tournament in Vancouver.

To prepare, Hockey Canada will use a roster filled with non-NHLers at a number of international tournaments this winter, including the Deutschland Cup, Loto Cup and Spengler Cup.

Locked-out NHLers will be avoided due to the insurance costs.

The plan also may be used when Canada defends its crown at the World Championships in Austria next spring.

"Who knows where the NHL's going to be," Nicholson said. "We may have a slew of NHLers available to us because there's no hockey yet. We don't want to close any doors, it's just we can't wait until the last minute."

Very real is the possibility a full-time national team will be constructed for the first time since it was disbanded in 2000.

"It's something I was a part of and honoured to do," said Habscheid, who was part of Team Canada at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary. "There comes a balance in terms of doing what's best for us to get the best chance of winning gold in Torino but we want to take baby steps when moving forward."

Going that route, however, will come at a cost.

Being without the NHLers and the best-on-best tournaments to grow the national team's exposure that's come with it, already comes at a price.

Going with a full-time team will elevate the cost even more.

"There's a whole revenue stream that's been so great to Hockey Canada since 2002, hundreds of thousands of dollars," Nicholson said. "In 2002, we sold over $20 million worth of jerseys alone and we get a royalty of 10 percent.

"A full-time team without NHLers is going to be a huge hit, probably $4 million or $5 million we have to come up with."


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