Roster shuffle

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 6:19 AM ET

It was close. 'O Canada' beat out 'No, Canada.' But it went to overtime.

Steve Tambellini took forever to pick Team Canada, finally announcing 22 players two days before opening camp in Calgary.

"I didn't feel any pressure to get things done. At the end of the day, I wanted to be able to tell Bob Nicholson and Hockey Canada that these were the best players ready to play. I'm excited about these guys. It's a strong group. It's a pumped group," Tambellini said.

Yes but ...

When Tambellini signed on to head Team Canada's quest for a third consecutive world hockey championship he had the idea the talent pool was going to be deep.

In the end, he had to pick a few from the shallow end.

"We could have two-and-a-half teams and argue which team would beat the other," he said when he began to assemble the squad for coach Marc Habscheid -- a team he figured he'd have picked about two weeks ago.

Instead there were two teams, the players who said yes and the players who said no. And you could argue which one would beat the other -- the ones going to Austria or the ones staying home.

Saying no were Jarome Iginla, Scott Niedermayer, Rob Blake, Joe Sakic, Martin St. Louis, Chris Pronger and Eric Brewer.

Oldie goldies such as Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman decided they may have hurt more than they would have helped. Injured players like Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier had no choice. But they're the headliners of one hell of a team we're leaving at home.

"My focus here is not to speak about whoever is not on the roster," said Tambellini. "They have their reasons, they made their decisions. My view is there are only so many times you get a chance to play on a team like this. It's like Wayne Gretzky once said when asked why he always said yes when he was asked to play. He said, quick and clear: 'One day they won't ask me.' "

Seven won gold for Canada last year at the world championship in Prague.

Three players -- Ryan Smyth, Dany Heatley and Roberto Luongo -- will get a chance to win three consecutive world championship gold medals for Canada.

Nineteen of the 22 players have previously represented Canada internationally.

Fifteen players -- Martin Brodeur, Shane Doan, Kris Draper, Simon Gagne, Heatley, Ed Jovanovski, Luongo, Kirk Maltby, Patrick Marleau, Brenden Morrow, Brendan Morrison, Wade Redden, Robyn Regehr, Smyth and Joe Thornton -- are all return members from the team that won gold at the World Cup of Hockey in September.

It's maybe not the dream team Tambellini thought he could put together.

But it's still the best team Canada has taken to the world championship.

And every one of them, he insists, are players who want to wear the sweater and play for their country.

"We know each is honoured and wants to represent Canada with the passion to go for four third straight gold medal and to give back our game across the country," Tambellini said.

"This is special to each and every one. I know they're excited. I know they're ready get going quickly. They're a strong group of players and this is not something unfamiliar to them."

Tambellini said he hopes Canada decided to cheer for them for that reason if no other. These are players who have felt backlash from fans who stayed away from their charity events and spewed most of their lockout anger in their direction.

"The one thing we have to remember here is these are Canada's best players who are not going over to play for their respective club teams but are going to play for their country. We have to remember that," Tambellini said.

"They are, like any other year at the world championships, putting themselves in a place where they can compete for their country.

"That is something that should be respected. It's important. It's something that this country cares a great deal about.

"It's a good thing."


Videos

Photos