No excuses this time: Brodeur

By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency



MIKE ZEISBERGER

QMI Agency

NEWARK, N.J. — Maybe the Canadians thought it would be easy.

Maybe the defending champions looked too far ahead when they arrived in Italy four years ago for the 2006 Winter Games, visions of a repeat dancing in their swelled heads.

Maybe there simply was too much swagger, and not enough scoring.

There are plenty of excuses for Team Canada’s Tumble In Turin, a tournament in which the Canadians failed to even reach the semifinals.

“I don’t know if it was overconfidence … but it’s something we have to make sure doesn’t happen again,” said goalie Martin Brodeur said.

Brodeur is well aware of what he speaks.

Since NHLers first were welcomed to the Olympic tourney in 1998, only Brodeur and defenceman Chris Pronger have been on the Canadian roster for all four Games — Nagano (‘98), Salt Lake City (‘02), Turin (‘06) and Vancouver (‘10).

It certainly has been an emotional ride.

Nagano brought the heartbreak of a shootout loss to the Czechs in the semis, stripping Canada of a place in the gold-medal game. Salt Lake featured the euphoria of Canada’s first Olympic title in 50 years. And Turin was the setting for an underachieving team that suddenly forgot how to score.

This time it’s different.

This time Canada isn’t just expected to win.

This time, in the eyes of an entire country, Canada MUST win.

There can be no rerun of Turin.

And Brodeur knows it.

Here’s his perspective on what Team Canada faces in the coming days both on and off the ice.

CHECK YOUR EGOS AT THE DOOR

There will be no place for selfishness in the dressing room, Brodeur insists.

“Put everything in check when the tournament starts. Your pride. Your ego. Everything,” Brodeur said.

“It’s going to take all the guys. You can’t worry about things like ice time. It’s going to be about us, as a country, trying to bring back the gold for Canada.”

SHOW NO MERCY

When it comes to kicking sand in the faces of the tournament’s 90-pound weaklings, Brodeur encourages it.

Asked what Team Canada 2010 can learn from the disappointment of Turin, Brodeur replied: “Not to take anything for granted.

“I think we started off playing some so-so games against some teams we should have really buried,” Brodeur said. “Then offensively, goal wise, it kind of caught up to us when we got to the big games.

“It’s not a switch you can turn on and off. It doesn’t matter how good you are. Good teams will tell you when you go through the playoffs you can’t just turn it around and say: “Ok, now let’s play.”

Canada’s first game is against Norway Tuesday. If the team heeds Brodeur’s advice, the underdog Norwegians could be in for a long day.

THE RED-AND-WHITE SPOTLIGHT

While it might not be fair to the other publicity-deserving athletes representing Canada at these Games, Brodeur understands Team Canada will be under the biggest spotlight.

“The attention of the Games, well, a lot of it will be on us,” Brodeur said. “I think that’s going to be a positive thing for us to have, regardless of whether it’s early in the tournament or later on.

“I think it’s important for everyone on the team to understand how big this event is going to be.”

THE VILLAGE PEOPLE

Team Canada will be staying in the Olympic Village again.

Given that these games are on home soil, it might be a welcome asylum.

In Vancouver, the Canadian players will be treated like royalty. There will be no quiet strolls like Brodeur and his teammates had in Turin.

“We’re there to play hockey and (Hockey Canada) made that clear at our summer orientation camp in Calgary when they talked to us,” Brodeur said.

“About how we’re going to get prepared. About how we’re going to deal with the fans. Because we’re in Canada this time. It’s not like we can just walk down the street like we did in Torino or Japan or even Salt Lake.

“It’s going to be a lot different for us.”

SCOUTING THE FIELD

If pre-tournament hype is any indication, Canada and Russia should play the gold-medal game right now.

It doesn’t work that way.

In 2002, the Swedes were the class of the tournament. Then came a shot from centre against Belarus that goalie Tommy Salo butchered, turning him into a national goat and crushing the Swedes’ gold-medal hopes.

In 2006, no one figured Switzerland could beat Canada, let alone shut them out. Both happened.

In Brodeur’s mind, Canada’s biggest foe this time around will be … Canada.

“I think the biggest challenge for us, as a team, is going to be us, ourselves,” he said. “Every team is going to have an unbelievable goalie in their lineup. And when you are playing a 60-minute hockey game, who knows what could happen?

“It’s not fair to say the U.S. is going to be a problem. Or the Czechs. Or the Russians. They all bring something that could be tough for us. We’re just going to concentrate on how we’re going to play.

“That has to be the main thing.”

After being part of three prior Olympics, Martin Brodeur would know.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

MARTIN BRODEUR's OLYMPIC RESUME

YEAR: 1998, Nagano, Japan

STATS: Did not play.

ROLE: Served as backup along with Curtis Joseph to starter Patrick Roy.

THE SKINNY: Watched Canada lose in semifinal shootout to Dominik Hasek and the Czech Republic … Canada finished fourth.

BRODEUR SAYS: “To lose that way was crushing.”

YEAR: 2002, Salt Lake City

STATS: 4-0-1, 1.80 GAA

ROLE: After Joseph started the opener, a loss to Sweden, Brodeur got the call for the second game and played every minute the rest of the way.

THE SKINNY: Backstopped Canada to its first Olympic gold medal in 50 years.

BRODEUR SAYS: “It was such a thrill … You can’t describe the feeling.”

YEAR: 2006, Turin, Italy

STATS: 2-2-0, 2.01 GAA

ROLE: Canada’s No.-1 goalie from the start, although backup Roberto Luongo did see some action.

THE SKINNY: Canada eliminated from medal contention in quarterfinal by Russia … Canadians were shut out in 11 of their final 12 periods of play … Spoiled excellent goaltending performances by Brodeur and Luongo … Canada was the only team in the Olympic tournament not to allow more than two goals in any game.

BRODEUR SAYS: “I’m not sure it was overconfidence … (but) it can’t happen again.”

OLYMPIC TOTALS

6-2-1, 1.88 GAA, gold medal in 2002.

POLL