Athletes deserve better

It's shocking how many people can't grasp the fact no one has actually turned down the honour of being Canada's Olympic flag-bearer.

Several high-profile athletes simply asked months ago their name not be submitted as one of 15 nominees representing each winter sport.

They did it to better ensure their chances of doing their country proud on event day.

After years of being a participation nation that had athletes happy just to be at the Games, Canada is now focused on winning.

How someone like Don Cherry can stare into a camera, point his finger and call top athletes such as Clara Hughes, Cindy Klassen and Pierre Lueders "a disgrace" is laughable.

These are the same athletes who will do more for their country's pride and unity than any politician or policy ever could.

Makes you wonder how "disgraced" Canadians like Cherry will be to hear our national anthem played at more Olympic medal ceremonies than ever before.

Know this: A great Canadian will carry the flag no matter who the committee selects Thursday.

AROUND THE HORN: Crazy rumour circulating around CFL circles: Matt Dunigan is being considered for the offensive co-ordinator job in Ottawa under John Jenkins. Two years ago, Dunigan fired Jenkins as his offensive co-ordinator in Calgary because he refused to incorporate a running game into the Stampeders' scheme ... How nice for Shaq and Kobe to bury the hatchet on Martin Luther King Day with a pre-game handshake. Too bad they didn't do it a few years earlier when stifling their ego battle could have allowed them to build a dynasty in L.A. ... Still riding high off the world junior championships, Hitmen goalie Justin Pogge still has his gold medal sitting on his night table ... Should Mario's Pens head north to Manitoba, Brent Johner wonders if the team's name would be the Winnipenguins ... Guy Chouinard wasn't too far off when he gave Peter Maher the nickname Barney Fife -- the lovable character played by Don Knotts on the Andy Griffith Show ... A 20-year-old Californian set a world record last week by solving the Rubik's cube in 11.13 seconds, which is roughly how long the Carolina Panthers were in yesterday's NFC championship game ... A Quebec rock group called Les Dales Hawerchuk, after their favourite hockey player, has released their first video. The song is called, you guessed it, Dale Hawerchuk ... How appropriate Jerome Bettis, the league's biggest running back, will be playing in his hometown for Super Bowl, um, XL.

PARTING GIFTS: Hard to criticize Sabres GM Darcy Regier as his team is the surprise of the NHL this season. However, he's being mocked around the league for his handling of his goaltending situation. Failing his team miserably by being unable to trade one of his three studs, he's had third-stringer Mika Noronen travelling with the club all year despite playing just four games. So alienated is Noronen, he changes in a separate room from the rest of the team when the Sabres are at home ... The Toronto Rock's dynasty appears to be over as the club has opened the season 0-4 ... The natural-looking FieldTurf at Qwest Field that played host to yesterday's Seahawks game is the same surface that will be installed at McMahon Stadium this spring ... After four stints in the East Coast league, former Flames goaltending prospect Dany Sabourin leads the AHL with a 1.97 goals-against average and 18-3-1 record with the Pittsburgh Penguins' affiliate ... Just one problem with the idea of having Wayne Gretzky carry the flag for the opening ceremony in Turin Feb. 10 -- his Coyotes have a game against Dallas one night earlier and host San Jose two nights later.

PARTING SHOTS: Adding further credence to the fact the west is far superior to the Country Club Conference in the east, Calgary wrapped up play against the northeast division Saturday with a perfect 5-0 record, outscoring Montreal, Toronto, Buffalo, Ottawa and Boston 13-4. Meanwhile, as predicted, the Leafs have used their western road swing to prove their once beefy record is a product of the soft east, going 1-5 and falling out of a playoff spot ... Lindy Ruff is right -- blowing the video review of Robyn Regehr's game-winner Saturday is unacceptable. Mind-boggling too ... Who could focus on the first half of the Steelers game yesterday when Maria Sharapova and Daniela Hantuchova were grunting it out on TSN? ... Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi, reporting backstage at the Golden Globes: "Worst performance by a star in a major sporting event goes to Peyton Manning for Chokeback Mountain."