Hey 'Tuzz, you lose

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:45 AM ET

CALGARY -- Down the street and around the corner. That's as far as Team Canada had to go to find its 23rd player when time finally ran out on Todd Bertuzzi, or Steve Tambellini stopped dreaming in Technicolour about having his locked-out-in-limbo-suspended Vancouver Canucks player on the team.

"He lives around the corner from me,'' said Scott Walker after catching a 7 a.m. flight, arriving at 9 a.m. and jumping on the ice for Team Canada at practice here at 10:30 a.m. yesterday to fill 'Bertuzzi's spot' on the roster.

"We used to live a minute apart. Now we live five minutes apart. I live in Cambridge. He lives in Kitchener. But I live on the edge of Cambridge and he lives on the edge of Kitchener. So he's just around the corner,'' said the excited Nashville Predator, who is Canada's 13th forward.

"We skate together,'' he said of keeping in shape during the lockout. "Todd is a great player and really supported me. He was excited for me. I don't think there's going to be any comparisons between us. We're two different players.''

Why Tambelleni went through the dance, which ended with him singing 'Bye, bye Bertuzzi' yesterday, nobody around this team knows.

If by some major miracle (otherwise you haven't been paying attention to the Bettman-Goodenow war) the NHL decided to up and hold a hearing for Todd Bertuzzi so his suspension could be lifted, why would Team Canada have wanted him anyway?

A DEFINITE DISTRACTION

He's hardly the most popular player in the history of hockey, and his presence would have been a definite distraction.

Even with Tambellini holding one spot open for Bertuzzi, he became a soap opera of a story throughout camp here. And you have no idea the focus the European media would put on Bertuzzi and the premeditated vicious attack from behind on Steve Moore, which has been shown again and again and again all over the world.

No, Team Canada is way better off this way than if Gary Bettman had decided to wake up one day this past week and be a good guy and give a player a break.

"It just wasn't going to work,'' said Tambellini after practice on Day 4 of the five-day mini-camp here.

"I spoke to Todd and his agent Pat Morris, and both felt it was right to move on,'' said Tambellini, saying it was pure coincidence that Walker also happens to be a Morris client. Todd needed some time to get ready. I always said we were going to name the 23rd player sooner rather than later.''

Time ran out, too, for Shawn Horcoff, who became the father of his first child, a baby girl, on Thursday.

"We stayed in touch with Horc all week,'' said Tambellini of the Edmonton Oiler who was fourth in scoring on both gold medal teams at the world championships, and finished fourth in scoring in the Swedish Elite League this year.

"Horc will get a chance to play for Canada again. He's one of the most underrated players in the game.''

So it was Walker.

"We had a list, but Scotty just seemed to be the right guy at this point to help us at both ends of the rink.

AN EDGE TO HIS GAME

"He's a great skater, he has an edge to his game, which we like, and he's had international experience.''

Walker didn't debate for a single second.

"It was (Friday) at 3:15 p.m. they called me,'' said Walker, who said he'll remember the phone call for a long time.

"I come from a small town. All of my buddies would give their right arm to play one game for the national team,'' said Walker, who also played for Canada at the '99 and '01 worlds.

"I was on that plane west at 7 a.m.. I don't have much time to get in shape,'' said the 31-year-old who had a 67-point career year with the Predators last year.

"I'm not Todd Bertuzzi but I'm happy and proud.

"They had a deep pool of players to pick from. You wonder how far down the list you are,'' he laughed.

Not that far. Just down the list and around the page from Todd Bertuzzi.


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