No, Canada

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

Has Wayne Gretzky, for the first time in his life, said "no" to Canada?

Is it closer to "Hell, no" after having been ambushed by the players last month in the now famed "New York False Alarm"?

Or will a last-ditch attempt by Hockey Canada's Bob Nicholson, complete with phone calls from former Edmonton Oiler teammate Marc Habscheid to Gretzky and Kevin Lowe, change Gretzky's mind from a decision not to go which a Sun source insists, he made earlier this week?

"It could go either way," said the highly placed Sun source, who indicated today will probably be final decision day.

Gretzky is believed to be still steamed from being conned by players into flying to New York to lend his presence, along with that of Mario Lemieux, for a failed attempt get the game back on ice two days after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman had shut down the season.

The recent diagnosis of Gretzky's mother with cancer resulted in Hockey Canada giving Gretzky additional time to make a decision.

Nicholson believed Gretzky was going to be a "go" instead of a "no" before No. 99 was left looking like an idiot as a result of having taken the ill-advised trip to New York.

Returning from Europe the night before, the Hockey Canada boss returned to his office yesterday to make the last-ditch effort to convince Gretzky to take the job.

OLYMPIC GOLD

Gretzky, Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe and Vancouver Canucks assistant GM Steve Tambellini put together Team Canada for the first Olympic gold medal in 50 years at the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Games and the World Cup of Hockey gold medal this past September.

Plan B for Hockey Canada - which is expected to go with new national coach Habscheid behind the bench regardless of the scenario - is believed to be to feature Tambellini as Detroit Red Wings assistant GM Jim Nill, who was GM of Canada's world championship win last year in Prague.

It's believed that Lowe will go which ever way Gretzky goes, although the Oilers GM had indicated it might be more awkward being involved with the players after losing a season due to the lockout than the more or less smooth sailing at the World Cup of Hockey before the lockout began.

At one point the NHL indicated to general managers and coaches not to be involved but reversed the decision in the face of expected public reaction.

Canada made it back-to-back World Hockey Championships last year in Prague and heads to Austria to go for the first three-in-a-row for Canada since the Edmonton Mercurys book-ended a 1950-'51-'52 run, winning the 1950 world championships and returning to win the '52 Olympics which, back then, doubled as the world championships. The Lethbridge Maple Leafs won the world championships in 1951.

While Hockey Canada is definitely behind schedule in terms of announcing the management team, it is on schedule with the planning according to the source.

FOUR-DAY CAMP

Hockey Canada is expected to announce, today or tomorrow, the dates of a four-day training camp in Calgary and the sites of two games in Canada, instead of the originally proposed four.

The training camp would likely begin April 14 with the first pre-tournament game in Halifax and the second in Quebec City.

In 2008, Halifax and Quebec City will play host to the first IIHF World Hockey Championships ever held in Canada - a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the IIHF. The team will then proceed to Riga, Latvia, and Prague for two more pre-tournament games.

Canada will begin play in Group B with Slovakia, Latvia and the U.S.A. beginning April 30 against the Latvians. They will then play the top three teams from Group C - Sweden, Finland, Ukraine and Denmark.

Quarter-finals are in Innsbruck. Should Canada make it to the semifinals and finals, they'd get to Vienna for the May 13-15 final weekend.

With essentially the same teams as most nations take to the Olympics and the World Cup of Hockey, thanks to the lost NHL season, it's expected to be the greatest world hockey championships ever held.

The question is whether they'll be held with or without The Greatest.

And when it really gets down to it, will Gretzky really be able to say "No" to Canada?


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