Canada calling

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

Maybe they should make like the bobsledders. Maybe they should have a Canada 1 and a Canada 2.

"The pool of players is impressive. We could have two and a half teams and argue which team would beat the other," said the GM of Team Canada.

Good quote, Gretz? No. That would be Steve Tambellini.

"There's no one committed to the NHL playoffs," added the head of Canada's management team to the IIHF World Hockey Championships. "It's an opportunity to ice one of the best teams which has ever taken part in the world championships."

Who needs Wayne Gretzky?

Actually, this isn't going to be as easy as it looks. With Wayne Gretzky and Kevin Lowe deciding not to go with Team Canada for this one, GM Steve Tambellini, head coach Marc Habscheid and staff will have things to deal with that nobody has ever dealt with before.

Half their players have been playing all year and the other half haven't played much at all, if at all. There's also the concept of picking a kind of combination of a World Cup team and core members of the team who have said yes to Canada for years and won the last two world titles. And players who couldn't say no to Wayne Gretzky (hello, Jarome Iginla?) may very well say no to Tambellini and his assistant Ken Holland.

And there's a combination for you. Normally Tambellini is the assistant GM in Vancouver and Holland the GM in Detroit.

What we already know is that Mario Lemieux is out and that Martin Brodeur is in and Marc Habscheid is head coach.

"Marc is the right coach," said Gretzky in his prepared statement after turning down the job due to the health of his mother.

Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson said Habscheid was always Gretzky's choice to coach this team.

"In discussions with Wayne, Marc Habscheid was the head coach," said Nicholson.

"It became Steve's decision. It was very quick - he decided to continue on with Marc Habscheid," he added of the man he hired as Canada's national coach leading into a year when it's uncertain whether Canada will be able to play NHL players at the Turin Olympics.

Tambellini said no one will get cut at training camp, which will be held in Calgary - likely beginning April 14.

"The players we do invite, we're going to stick with them," he said.

"Players have asked to play who haven't been on the ice for some time but players at this level are elite athletes. It's not going to take them six months," said Tambellini. "Marc has a plan in place for players who have not been competitive to get to where they need to go."

Goaltending is probably a closed shop with Brodeur No. 1 and Roberto Luongo and Jose Theodore backing him up. "If Martin Brodeur tells me he's ready to go, then he's the guy," said Tambellini. "I don't think anyone can doubt Martin Brodeur and what he's accomplished not only in the NHL but what he's done for Team Canada over the last few years."

Tambellini said he talked to Lemieux to make sure press reports quoting him as not believing he could get ready to play at this late date were accurate. And that indeed that's how he feels.

"I have to accept from Mario that it's the right decision for him."

Tambellini says he's convinced the players and NHL management and coaches (TBA later this week) will not bring lockout baggage with them to Europe.

"When they leave that dressing room, they'll be hungry to win," he said. "We'll be speaking to a lot of players over the next couple of days."

Tambellini says he is very conscious of the players who have answered Canada's call and been on the teams which won the world championships these past two years.

"The depth of the pool includes the players who have committed time and time again and been there for Canada," he said.

In the end, he says, they all understand, the idea is to pick the best team possible for Canada to succeed.

"When Canada puts out that logo, they're there to win. We'll take the very best players who are there to win. Within the week we should know where we're going."


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