Team Canada: Ghostbusters

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:27 AM ET

KELOWNA -- One of the reasons for the successes of the various Team Canadas in recent years is the continuity.

The same people keep coming back, and if they don't, their ideas do.

Even the loss at the Nagano Olympics in 1998 served to provide lessons that were used by the teams that won the 2002 Olympics and the 2004 World Cup.

At the end of every one of these tournaments, the management and coaches provide a written assessment.

When the 2002 group read the reports from Nagano, Team Canada coach Pat Quinn said yesterday, "parts had to do with inactivity in Japan. There were lots of times when the players were down. They felt there was a separation between coaching, management and players that they couldn't seem to pull together."

That's why the subsequent training camp stressed camaraderie involving all levels of the team. It's why Wayne Gretzky and his staff worked so hard to keep the players occupied and entertained with things such as team dinners and golf outings.

The Nagano group also had concerns, Quinn said, about their "mental outlook." They used what Quinn referred to as "that old ghost-roster system," where the third and fourth lines were dedicated to checking responsibilities.

"Our theory (for 2002) changed right off the bat," he said yesterday. "We were going to take the guys we thought were our most talented guys. To me, philosophically, that was a big change for us. It proved to be right in this case and hopefully we're doing the same thing again.

"The ghost roster almost has a negative concept to it. You're saying that we can't win with our third and fourth lines. Well we can win, but let's make sure we check, make sure we're positionally sound. Let's not worry about offence. Let's worry about taking them out of the play.

"We played not to lose instead of to win. In the Czech game when (the Canadians) tried to take up their play and get on the offensive side because they fell behind, they couldn't seem to do it.

"Philosophically, we were a different bunch going in there (in 2002) because we were taking our best and we were going to try to play a possession game and not being a fall-back trap team. We were going to see if we could do it that way and we did. It took a while to get there, but we did."

So, when Quinn watches his 37 candidates at the Olympic orientation camp here zip through scrimmages and workouts, he is not looking for a guy who can check or a guy who can score, as much as he is looking for a guy who has talent.

And he is seeing plenty of them.

"In my time with the group," he said, "it's certainly the most talented group of guys we've had."


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