Old habits die hard for Team Canada

ERIN NICKS -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:18 AM ET

The Canadian men's Olympic hockey team suffered a long stretch of "always the bridesmaid, never the bride" syndrome, until their long-awaited gold medal victory in 2002.

Have you ever heard the rhyme that insists all brides should possess "something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue?"

All emotional sentiment and feminine tradition aside, this bit of superstition has already been applied to the potential 23-man roster heading to Turin next year.

Steve Yzerman and Mario Lemieux both qualify as "something old," with the latter also demonstrating a somewhat indecisive nature.

The general speculation has been that Lemieux may decline an Olympic invitation, as he was a no-show to the orientation camp in August. Mario's decision is still up in the air -- he claims that his health and the play of other potential team members will figure into his final decision.

However, it's basically understood that both captains from the Red Wings and Penguins have been awarded predetermined spots on the roster. A remarkable honour to be sure, considering that Wayne Gretzky has 47 other forwards to choose from.

The "something old" plays the role of leadership on a team, but the automatic inclusion of both these players is questionable, especially considering the virtually limitless depth of the Canadian talent pool.

But based on past experience (and long friendships with the team director), one can't simply choose to not include leaders like Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman ... can they?

Ask Mark Messier about his Olympic experiences. No one gave him the option -- all signs indicated that his time had passed.

With the heady combination of predetermined veterans and perennial performers in their prime, questions abound regarding the younger crop of upstarts and whether or not they can bring "something new".

Can you imagine a Canadian Olympic team without the likes of Dany Heatley or Jason Spezza? Generally considered locks on any other team, both of the Senators will be fighting it out for a coveted position, alongside newcomers such as Brad Richards and Joe Thornton.

Meanwhile, as Mario Lemieux contemplates a return to potential Olympic glory, he has to wonder what risk his Penguins would face if they allow Sidney Crosby to become "something borrowed".

Crosby, who serves as the marketing linchpin currently holding the Pittsburgh Penguins together, has not been guaranteed a Team Canada berth.

But media reports since August have constantly mentioned the inclusion of Crosby, and it is understood that if No. 87 were not present in Turin, the uproar would reach massive proportions.

Surely Lemieux wishes for his young protege to have the complete hockey experience during his career, but with a team at home still facing a precarious future, perhaps they should both consider where priorities truly lie.

And as for the "something blue", you may want to look at players like Eric Staal or Rick Nash. Staal, in spite of his stellar start, could suffer due to lack of experience. And Rick Nash may not have the ability to stay healthy long enough to garner a legitimate consideration.

Regardless of these obstacles, the Canadian men's Olympic hockey team has the potential to extend its honeymoon for four more years. And here's hoping that the Czechs and Swedes trip over each other during the bouquet toss.

TUNNEL VISION: Elisha Cuthbert has recently been making headlines as a blogger for NHL.com. Nice job, but instead of reviewing what the Staples Center concessions have to offer, perhaps she can tell us what really happened after the infamous Sean Avery-Georges Laraque racial-slur incident. An eyewitness told Hot Shots that Cuthbert and boyfriend Trace Ayala were both present in the tunnel when Laraque, coach Craig MacTavish and teammates confronted Avery after the game last month.

CHEMISTRY CLASS: Jason Giambi was caught demonstrating a questionable sense of humour in Las Vegas recently -- the Yankees slugger was spotted wearing a T-shirt that read: "Better Living Through Chemistry."

CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN: A member of the Indiana Pacers dance team admits in her biography that she has twelve fingers. Coach Rick Carlisle relies on her to signal when the team has run through the first half of the shot clock.

erinnicks@yahoo.ca


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