Sep 25, 2001
What was originally a two-day orientation session became a four-day "don't call this a training" camp. Players came to Calgary, played a little golf, and practiced hard. Team Canada has only one colour in mind come Salt Lake City - gold. The last time Canada won gold in men's ice hockey, I was not even close to a twinkle in my father's eye, seeing as how he was 5 years old in 1952.
It has been said by many during this training/orientation session that no spot is a guarantee, with the exception of the first eight players already named to the roster.
20 skaters and three goaltenders will be named to the team on Dec. 22, the last day Hockey Canada must make it's team known. Five of the first eight named are forwards, and, assuming the team takes seven defenders and 13 forwards, that leaves 8 spots open for forwards to line up alongside team captain Mario Lemieux, Paul Kariya, Owen Nolan, Joe Sakic, and Steve Yzerman in Salt Lake City.
Eric Lindros and Theoren Fleury have been the focus of most of the Canada media invited to Calgary, and with good reason. Lindros has looked remarkably smooth, and has shown that, although he has not played in 16 months, he is ready to step into a Rangers uniform and, come February, Team Canada's sweater will fit him just fine. Fleury, after a stint in substance-abuse rehab that forced him to miss a good part of last season was the first player to take the ice when the formal/informal camp opened. His pure speed and enthusiasm is a benefit on a team with a plethora of perennial all-stars.
Keith Primeau has the Olympic experience, size and reliability that Flyers fans (hopefully) appreciate. Primeau would be a great fit on a power line Owen Nolan, already named to the team, and a rejuvenated Eric Lindros. Executive director Wayne Gretzky also invited some younger players in Ryan Smyth and Alex Tanguay, and, to their benefit, there is no one who has not been impressed by the two. Mark Recchi and Pierre Turgeon should also have an edge over their fellow Canadians due to their creativity on the larger Olympic-sized ice surface. Mike Peca, at last year's World Championships showed that he has the ability to bring a Messier-like level of intensity to any game he plays, aside from being an incredible two-way player.
Three forwards who would seen to be on the outside looking in are Jason Arnott, Simon Gagne, and Joe Nieuwendyk. Of course, with nearly five months of regular season hockey until the Olympics, injuries can happen, and any of those three is very capable of having a great season that merits their selection to the Olympic team on December twenty-second.
On to the tougher job of picking the four defensemen that will join Rob Blake, Chris Pronger, and Scott Niedermeyer. The transition to the a larger surface presents a problem for those with poor lateral movement, and the lack of a red line allows for long outlet passes which would be a no-no in the NHL. Al MacInnis probably couldn't play his way off the team, and Adam Foote will be able to play his style of simply moving bodies out of the slot well at the Olympics. Invitees Jay Mckee, Derek Morris, Wade Redden and Richard Matvichuk look to be a little lost, and might be in over their heads in an Olympic situation. The two other spots would have to come from a group of Scott Stevens, Eric Brewer, Ed Jovanovski, and Eric Desjardins. The Olympics in 1998 showed Scott Stevens that his physical game is not as applicable on the international ice surface as in the NHL, and any two from Desjardins, Brewer, and Jovanovski would not disappoint.
Four goalies - three goaltending spots. Ed Belfour, by all accounts will not be invited to Salt Lake City, so that leaves Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy, and Curtis Joseph. Honestly, at this point, there is no way to pick a sure starter from among those three. Brodeur is a good goalie; made great by a system he plays in. That system will be very to the similar to what head coach Pat Quinn would be looking to develop with Team Canada. Patrick Roy will always be known as a big game goaltender, and I am sure his one penalty shot goal against in 1998 still haunts him, and he wants to start again. CuJo, the dark horse to start might very well be a good fit between the Canadian pipes. He has already played three years under the freewheeling system of Pat Quinn, and might do better than his counterparts. Joseph, like Brodeur, sat and watched Roy play every moment in 1998, and both would like to be able to usurp their countryman.
Team Canada is looking to rebound from a disappointing Nagano, and, no matter who ends up on the final roster, there is one guarantee. Those players will be all-stars, those players will be good, and those players will travel to Salt Lake City looking to win.
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