Nitpicking becomes Olympic event

ERIN NICKS -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:45 AM ET

Wayne Gretzky picks and then Canada nitpicks. The selection of the men's Olympic hockey team is one of those extremely rare occasions where one man is allowed to be right and 30 million people are wrong.

After months of speculation, it took only 15 minutes to announce the team during a live news conference from Vancouver on Wednesday.

To be truthful, there were few, if any, real surprises. The biggest was the naming of Bryan McCabe to the taxi squad, and that was only due to the perpetual discussion of forwards for the back-up group.

But after reading some on-line comments from TSN's website, you'd think that Canada was having another Rob Zamuner moment.

We all know which players are causing the so-called "controversy" and we're familiar with the reasons why. So let's have a look at it:

- The loyalty factor: The masses on message boards around the country are infuriated and "disgusted" by the selection of forwards Kris Draper and Shane Doan to the main squad based on their mediocre play so far this season. Draper, at the time of the Olympic announcement, had only one goal, six helpers and a minus-6 plus/minus rating. Doan has snagged six goals, 16 assists and currently sits at -7. But during the 2004 World Cup -- a tournament in which players like Dany Heatley and Simon Gagne were brought in for scoring power and fell short -- Draper was able to tally four points in five games. Draper and Doan were also among the leaders in plus/minus on the team and in the top 20 overall for the tournament (sixth and 18th, respectively). Obviously Gretzky put significant stock into their World Cup performances.

- The Bertuzzi factor: This was a calculated risk on Gretzky's part, and whether you believe he's there to replace the role of Theo Fleury or Owen Nolan, the fact remains that Gretzky is buying what Bertuzzi is selling. There have been flashes of the Bertuzzi of old over the last few weeks, which should push the topic of his play to the forefront of the discussion. The biggest question mark will be how the team, Gretzky and Bertuzzi, specifically, deal with the international spotlight on the maligned star. And if you think all that nastiness regarding Steve Moore has played itself out, think again. ESPN.com's headline on Thursday read, "Canada picks Bertuzzi, not (Sidney) Crosby." Bitter much? Definitely. Expect it to continue in Turin.

- The youth factor: One has to believe that Crosby would keep his impertinent opinions to himself if he ever landed among such elite company. However, Crosby is only 18 and barring major injuries, could have at least three other Olympic opportunities. And while it may not seem easy to look ahead to 2010, it's important to remember that Canada's transition from the 2002 Olympic team to the potential young stars of today will be completed at that time -- a reassuring fact indeed considering the Canadian venue and the powerful youth movement brewing in the U.S.

Picking is one thing, but nitpicking is another.

When you're forced to select the top echelon from a list containing 81 elite players, you've got to think that the American squad would love to have our problems.

WRONG PUBLICITY STUNT: Surely Hockey Canada meant well when it decided to announce the women's Olympic roster on the same day (and at the same news conference) as the men. It was likely assumed that the women would benefit from the men's publicity. However, with all the fevered discussion surrounding the men's selections, the women were left by the wayside in respect to coverage, especially on the later highlight shows. Hopefully when the 2010 roster is announced, they will move the women's news conference to a separate day -- they deserve every chance to bask in the spotlight.

QUICK HITS: Headline from the Pittsburgh Penguins' e-mail news service: "(Michel) Therrien Hopes Winning Recipe Pays Off in Pittsburgh." Too many cooks spoil the broth, Michel -- especially when you're the sous-chef to head cook Mario Lemieux ... An American company is tying the Evangelical and retro movements together by creating Christian throwback jerseys, with names of books of The Bible in place of the team logo. I wonder how they'll react when they receive their first order for a Celtics No. 33 jersey with "Jesus" printed on the back.

erinnicks@yahoo.ca


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