Olympic dreams

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:21 AM ET

Jan Alston stood at the back of the press conference room listening to Wayne Gretzky and everybody talk about being on board if the NHL pros go to the Torino Olympic Winter Games.

He and 30 others of the 'Plan B' Team Canada were on the ice four hours later, trying to keep a fire going under their own Olympic dreams.

If the NHL pros don't go, they would be the guys who will go. If the Torino Olympics don't include NHL players, Gretzky and group will become advisers and Johnny Misley and his Hockey Canada staff will head the effort with Marc Habscheid as the head coach - as he was for Team Canada at the World Hockey Championships in Austria.

Alston has heard the rumours and reports that an NHL-NHLPA deal is now only a couple of weeks away and the speculation that part of the new deal will be NHL players going to Toronto.

The question is almost 'What are these guys wasting their time doing here?'

"I don't see it that way," said the Canadian, who like the rest from goaltenders Steve Passmore, Jimmy Waite and Jean-Francois Labbe out, plays pro in Europe.

GREAT OPPORTUNITY

"I see this as a great opportunity. If things don't pan out, I think it's still a good thing to be coming here and doing this," he said of the three-day camp, which includes the likes of Mark Astley, Micki Dupont, Jamie Heward, Hnat Domenichelli, Glen Metropolit and Jeff Shantz.

"We have everything to gain from it and nothing to lose. We still take these guys to the tournaments in Europe during the season over there. We're happy to be together here."

Habscheid is the man in the middle.

"It's not about me," he said. "I can work with either scenario. Whatever dictates the way we're going. I think it's important we have these guys here to be ready for the eventuality that NHL players don't go to the Olympics."

If the NHL players do go to the Olympics, they'll also go to a camp in mid-August in Kelowna, B.C., and be part of an orientation camp which would include players invited to a World Junior Team Canada camp, which would begin earlier in the month in Whistler.

"It was something Wayne brought to me," said Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson of the combined camp idea. "The idea fell in our lap. It would be great for the junior players to be around the top NHL players. And it would be great for the NHL players, considering there hasn't been NHL hockey for a year, to go to a camp like that before they go to their normal team camps.

Gretzky said Mario Lemieux might be at that camp. He said as captain of the Salt Lake Olympic gold-medal team and the World Cup of hockey gold-medal team, he would definitely be made a part of the new team if Lemieux believed he could contribute. Gretzky said Sidney Crosby, on the other hand, wouldn't be invited to Kelowna.

SORRY, SID

"Sidney is the most dominant amateur player in the world and will be a leader on teams in the future. But he would not be involved in the August camp. But I hope what he does from September to December means we have to pick him."

Gretzky's hoping it'll be January when he has to pick his team.

"For the last Olympics we were forced to select players in December. Hopefully for these Olympics we'd be able to select them as late as possible."


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