Why not Yzerman to lead?

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:06 AM ET

With Wayne Gretzky officially out of the mix to run the 2010 Olympic team, it is time for Steve Yzerman to assume control.

Certainly there is no shortage of candidates for the executive director's job, leaving Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson with some difficult choices before a final decision comes down next month. Ken Holland has made Stanley Cup parades through downtown Detroit a regular event; Kevin Lowe was a key ingredient in the Team Canada hierarchy at both the 2002 and '06 Games; and Bob Gainey's record, both as a player and general manager, has elicited respect for more than three decades.

Nicholson wants someone who has won in the past and has the aura to inspire players just with his presence when he walks into the dressing room, a key ingredient in a short two-week tournament that is more of a sprint than a marathon.

No offence to Holland, Lowe, Gainey or any other wannabes up for consideration, but no one recently has filled that criteria better than Yzerman. No wonder some reports indicate he will get the job, although Nicholson will not yet confirm that.

From a practical standpoint, Stevie Y appears to have been groomed for this position, heading Canada's management team at the past two world hockey championships. Under his watch, the Canadians captured a gold and silver medal while losing just one game, a heartbreaking 5-4 overtime loss to the Russians in the gold-medal game in Quebec City in May.

The fact that Yzerman has been involved in the team-building process at these tournaments is key.

According to one Team Canada official, the selection process will slightly differ this time around from the previous two Olympics. Instead of taking players based on how they have fared for Canada in the past, more emphasis will be placed on how individuals are performing in the months leading up to Vancouver.

In other words, the "What have you done for me lately?" mantra will be implemented more and more. And who better to gauge that than Yzerman, given how closely he has worked with the Canadian program in recent years?

As for Nicholson's wish to have a leader who commands respect, Yzerman has proven his worth on that front time and again.

Just ask Pat Quinn, Canada's coach at both the 2002 Salt Lake City and 2006 Turin Games.

Six years ago in Salt Lake, with Canada en route to its first Olympic gold in 50 years, Quinn watched Yzerman hobble in and out of the trainer's room because of a knee injury that practically left him on one leg.

"He was hurt. We knew it was bad," Quinn said last night. "He couldn't practise. He would receive treatment every day."

Yet, once the games came around, Yzerman would play.

And lead.

"I remember some younger guys were not listening to our desire to keep the shifts shorter," Quinn said. "Steve stepped up and said: "We are going to listen to the coaches." He kept his shifts short. That put peer pressure on the guys who wouldn't listen.

"In 2006 we were supposed to have a more talented team than in '02 yet we came up short. I think not having the presence of a Steve Yzerman or a Mario Lemieux, just for what they bring by being around the team, was a reason for that."

Yzerman's influence can be felt even when he is a continent away.

The night before the title game between Canada and the host Russians at the world under-18 championship in April, Quinn, the Canadian coach, took the kids out for dinner. Once there, he put a cell phone on the table, clicked on speaker mode, then had his team listen to some words of wisdom.

From Steve Yzerman.

"Here's a guy who got up in the middle of the night to talk by phone to these kids who were an ocean away," Quinn said. "You could have heard a pin drop. They listened to every word."

The Canadians then went out and spanked the Russians right in their own backyard by an 8-0 final.

Once again, Steve Yzerman's influence helped the Canadians achieve international success.

Yet another reason why he should run the show in 2010.


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