December 22, 2005
Don't take it awayTeam Canada goes for experience over youth on Olympic roster
By TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun
Most Canadians look forward to the naming of an Olympic hockey team like they look forward to, well, Christmas.
This was like opening your Christmas present and getting exactly what you expected.
The question is whether you got what you really wanted. Did Wayne Gretzky give Canada Olympic gold again?
Gretzky, who is 2-0 delivering gold at the Olympics and World Cup, telegraphed the makeup of Team Canada months ago when he suggested it's not who you can add for your country - but who you'd take away. He didn't take away.
"We went with proven veteran players who have won at the world championships, the World Cup and the Olympics," said Kevin Lowe, standing in as spokesman for Gretzky, who was on the final conference call prior to announcing the team yesterday but did not participate beyond that.
'I LIKE THE CHEMISTRY'
"We felt it was important to include people who have succeeded," said coach Pat Quinn.
"These players have experience with success. We've seen these people succeed. I like the chemistry, the experience, the speed, the skill and the grit. There may be criticism that some of them are not having the NHL years they've had in the past, but we've seen them at the international level. We know what they're NOT going to do. When the pressure is on they are not going to panic and under-perform."
If you believe in tried, tested and true, Gretzky, Lowe, Quinn and the Team Canada brain trust picked a pack of perfect players.
The new flavours like Eric Staal and Jason Spezza didn't make it but did make the taxi squad - along with defenceman Bryan McCabe. Sidney Crosby made neither. Sid The Kid may be the next Gretzky but he's 18 and hasn't won anything outside of junior.
"It's like Wayne said on the conference call this morning, Sid could be the captain of this team in 2010," said Lowe.
"In a do-or-die situation we know these individuals can handle the pressure very well," said assistant coach Jacques Martin.
"The big thing is we have instant chemistry with this team," said assistant coach Wayne Fleming. "After 15 or 20 minutes all the concepts are going to jump into place very quickly."
You can debate whether Todd Bertuzzi should ever be allowed to wear the red Maple Leaf after his despicable act to the back of Steve Moore right above where Hockey Canada sews a stop sign on the practice jerseys. If this team is supposed to be all about sending Canada's best people to the Olympics, then we should leave the jerk at home. If this is about going for the gold, then we're taking one of the top power forwards in hockey. For 50 years Canada would have gladly sent an entire team of Bertuzzis if it meant finally winning another gold.
"Twelve of the 13 forwards were on the World Cup team," said Lowe of the experience, not pointing out that the other, Bertuzzi, was under suspension.
The defence could have been picked by an atom coach two years ago.
"It might be among the best defences Canada has taken into an international tournament," said Quinn, ignoring the plus-minus seasons of Adam Foote and Rob Blake.
And maybe the one pick that was most true to the philosophy involved was going with Marty Turco as the third goaltender to Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo.
There was the expectation, among many, that Gretzky would go with his own Phoenix Coyotes goalie Curtis Joseph - because he's been great so far this season. But Turco was No. 3 at the world championships in Austria this past spring.
For Gretzky not to insist his goalie be on the team made a statement. If Marc Crawford had only made the same statement with his goalie Patrick Roy in Nagano, Canada may at least have won the bronze medal.
"Curtis came in and has played absolutely fantastic this year. But (what) we thought as a group was how do we pull Turco out of there despite what Cujo has done?" said Quinn.
As for those crying for Staal or Spezza?
"The problem is that we haven't seen them at this next elite level. All these players we selected have proved well at these levels," said Quinn.
To put one of them there ahead of somebody like Ryan Smyth (Captain Canada and the prototype of a Canadian hockey player) or Shane Doan (who scored the winner at the World Cup) would have been criminal. "They are two very young players who had incredible starts to their season. They've really lit it up. But there was nobody we really wanted to pull out," said Lowe.
That was the bottom line in picking this team. My bottom line is I like everything about this Canadian team to take to Turin except for the uniforms. Who picked them?