Canada's golden boy

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

Gold or bust.

Anything less will be a failure. A medal of any other colour may as well be made out of tin foil.

Bob Nicholson knows this.

Steve Yzerman knows this.

But will the players who make up the roster for the 2010 Canadian Olympic hockey team know this?

"Don't worry: they'll know," Yzerman said last week, standing in the bowels of Joe Louis Arena.

Yzerman will make certain they do.

In one of the worst kept secrets in hockey, Yzerman will be named as the point man of the Canadian Olympic team, an announcement that is expected to come tomorrow in Ottawa.

Yzerman, who has led Canada to a gold and a silver medal at the past two world championships, takes over the Olympic reigns from Wayne Gretzky, who told Sun Media yesterday that it is now "Steve's team."

TORCH PASSED

Consider the torch -- the Olympic variety, in this instance -- to have been passed.

Nicholson, the president of Hockey Canada, is not about to tip his hand until the official proclamation is released. But he has made it clear that, along with the normal running-of-the-ship duties, the man in charge should be a figure who is well-regarded among his peers, both past and present.

Under that criteria, Yzerman fits the bill to a tee.

"There is no question that as soon as he walks into a (dressing) room, everybody's ears open," San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton, a member of the '06 Canadian Olympic team, said yesterday from California.

"That's how much respect players have for him.

"I think it's great. He has worked with Canada at the Worlds and he has done a great job in Detroit. He's definitely the right guy for the job."

With Yzerman at the helm, Team Canada lost just one game in two years at the worlds -- a spirit-crushing 5-4 overtime loss to the Russians in the championship game in Quebec City back in May.

"I think he is great," power forward Rick Nash said after his Blue Jackets had completed their noon-time practice in Columbus.

"He's a Canadian hockey icon, a great former player. I played for him (at both world championships) and I thought he did a terrific job.

"He has been part of the game so long and was a great captain of the Red Wings. They have had some of the best GMs in the game in that role and Steve certainly knows what he is doing."

Nash understand how much the spotlight of an entire country will shine on the men's hockey team in Vancouver, especially with the Games taking place on home soil.

"There will be a lot of pressure on the team," said Nash, who also was a member of the '06 squad in Turin, Italy. "Right now I'm just worried about making the team. I'm not worried about the pressure.

"(The pressure) is kind of obvious. Any time Canada goes to a tournament involving hockey there is pressure. Right now, everyone is just focused on making the team."

Jarome Iginla knows what Yzerman brings to the table. The two stars were teammates with the '02 Canadian team in Salt Lake City that ended a 50-year dry spell by winning Olympic gold.

"If it is him (filling the executive director's role), you can see why," Iginla said yesterday. "He would be a great choice. Not only did he do so much as a player but the Red Wings have been the best organization in hockey for 10 years."

ANTICIPATION

Iginla said the anticipation of the coming Vancouver Games is beginning to swell.

"After Beijing, after watching as a fan, you realize they'll be coming up pretty quick," he said. "It's going to be pretty cool. I've been fortunate to be at two Olympics and hope to earn a spot this time around."

Iginla is being too modest. Not only should he be a shoo-in for the team, barring a huge dropoff in his game, it says here he is the perfect candidate to wear the captain's 'C' given his mixture of skill, leadership, enthusiasm, competitiveness and Olympic experience.

While there are plenty of worthy candidates for the coaching staff, why not keep it in the Red Wings family and bring in Mike Babcock, with Detroit general manager Ken Holland serving as part of the Team Canada braintrust as well?

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. These are all issues that Steve Yzerman can dissect in the coming months.

---

"I think he is great. He's a Canadian hockey icon."

-- Rick Nash

"As soon as he walks into a room, everybody's ears open."

-- Joe Thornton

"If it is him, you can see why. He would be a great choice."

-- Jarome Iginla


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