Gold Diggers

TURIN, Italy -- Martin Brodeur is going to get a chance to take a step back in time.

While he made history by helping Canada bring home its first gold medal in 2002 in Salt Lake City, this trip to the Olympics will take on a special meaning for the New Jersey Devils goaltender.

That's because 50 years ago in Cortina D'Ampezzo, Italy, Brodeur's father Denis Brodeur -- who will accompany his son on this trip -- played goal for Team Canada at the Winter Olympics.

And, though Martin Brodeur would naturally like to do better than the bronze medal Denis brought home that winter, this will be a chance for the Brodeur family to retrace its roots.

"It's something that's pretty cool for me," said Brodeur. "Growing up, I always heard my dad talking about the Olympics. For a youngster in Canada, usually everything is all about making the NHL and winning a Stanley Cup.

"Pros weren't allowed to go to the Olympics then and that's why my dad didn't turn pro. He wanted the chance to play in the Games. Now, that the professionals are allowed it's going to be fun for me. Back in 1998 (in Nagano), he was pretty excited about the whole thing. He had the wool jersey because they played outside back then. Now, that it's in Italy and it's 50 years after he won the medal, this is something that is going to be special for me and very special for my family."

But, Brodeur and the other 25 players who will represent Canada at these Olympics have no illusions about what the goal is for the country: It's gold or bust. Nothing else matters. Nothing else will do.

In two weeks time, they'll either be heroes or villified. Yes, it's that simple.

"We know that this country wants gold and nothing else is good enough. That's the expectation for Canada when it comes to hockey and we know that. We aren't kidding ourselves. We know we have to win the gold. We don't have anything else on our minds," said Team Canada executive director Wayne Gretzky.

Still, give Canada credit. After winning the gold in 2002 and knocking off Finland in the final of the 2004 World Cup, Gretzky could have decided it was time for a changing of the guard for the Canadian roster.

But Toronto coach Pat Quinn is back behind the bench with assistants Ken Hitchcock, Jacques Martin and Wayne Fleming. Gretzky kept assistant executive directors Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe because they helped him build a winning formula in Salt Lake.

Now, there were changes made out of necessity. Captain Mario Lemieux and Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman both decided to take a pass on these games to make room for younger, fresher legs. In Lemieux's case, he decided to retire recently while Yzerman has seen his role reduced dramatically in Detroit.

That's okay, though. It had to happen. Father Time catches up with everyone sooner or later and in the case of the NHL superstars, they believed it was time to pass the torch to Joe Thornton, Vinny Lecavalier, Shane Doan, Jason Spezza and Eric Staal.

However, there are holdovers from the gold medal squad and the champions of the World Cup. Colorado's Joe Sakic will wear the captain's 'C' while Rob Blake, Adam Foote, Simon Gagne and Jarome Iginla are going to be relied on heavily to help provide the leadership.

"We talked a lot in our meetings about what experience meant for this team," said Lowe, GM of the Edmonton Oilers. "This is a short tournament and as you know a lot can happen in a very short period of time. You want to have guys who have been there before and know what it takes.

"We had some very difficult decisions to make because there are so many good players in Canada and we wanted to make sure that we went in the right direction. The choices we made weren't easy, but we did what we felt will give us the best chance to win a gold medal. We like our team and we know how important it is for us to win this championship."

But, the choices were not without controversy. Most of which has surrounded Vancouver winger Todd Bertuzzi, who was suspended from hockey for a year for an incident involving Colorado's Steve Moore. Many thought choosing Bertuzzi was sending the wrong message and the Canadian Olympic Committee met immediately to discuss his selection, but it was given approval in the end.

"It's time for Canada to forgive and forget in the case of Todd Bertuzzi," said Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson. "We don't agree with what Todd Bertuzzi did and we know what he did was wrong.

"But, Todd Bertuzzi has come a long way in the last couple of weeks and he's playing the kind of hockey we're used to seeing him play. We want a guy like Todd Bertuzzi on our team, because we feel like he can help us. We think he's going to be a big part of our team."

If Bertuzzi behaves himself and plays his role, then everything will be fine. He is what Canada needs: A power forward who isn't afraid to make the hit and get the puck. He'll get a chance to play a big role. The defence is set with Blake, Foote and Ottawa's Wade Redden, but the club did lose Ed Jovanovski with a groin injury and that's a big loss.

"We look at our team and we feel pretty good about ourselves. We've got the talent to get the job done and I don't know how anybody could second guess guys like Wayne Gretzky, Kevin Lowe and (Steve) Tambellini. They've done it before and they know what it takes. It's good that we have so many great players in this country and there's so much to choose from," said Edmonton centre Ryan Smyth, who will make his 11th appearance with Team Canada.

This is all going to come down to goaltending. Brodeur is aware there is going be plenty of pressure as the No. 1. He had a tough start to the season, but has come into form in the last month. However, he realizes Curtis Joseph was supposed to be the top goalie in Salt Lake City and he lasted only one game -- a loss to Sweden in the opener. Roberto Luongo and Marty Turco will both be sitting on the sidelines waiting -- and pushing -- for their chance to play in this tournament.

"We got surprised in the first game in Salt Lake and after that it was tough," said Brodeur. "I know that those guys are going to want to get a chance to play and I don't think you should ever assume that you're going to be the No. 1.

"Going to Salt Lake, I didn't feel I was No. 2, but Cujo would have had the chance if he had won that first game. I would hope that each goalie is going to get a chance to play. The attitude I had when I went into Salt Lake was that I was going to play one game so I was focused. Everybody is telling me I'm No. 1, but when I get in there I don't want to lose my spot."