The most talked about roster perhaps in hockey history was released by Hockey Canada executives Wednesday afternoon and now Canadian fans and, really, hockey fans around the globe, have two and a half months to dissect, critique and scrutinize the decisions that were ultimately made by Team Canada Executive Director Steve Yzerman.
With Doug Armstrong, Kevin Lowe, Ken Holland and coach Mike Babcock sitting to his left at the dais in Saskatoon, Sask., Yzerman announced Canada's roster for the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.
He selected players with Olympic experience, but also went with a roster that has a strong flavor of youth.
Highlighting the team that is expected to compete for gold in Vancouver are the obvious choices of Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla, Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger and Martin Brodeur.
Niedermayer will be Canada's captain in Vancouver and Pronger, Crosby and Iginla will be his alternates.
Niedermayer, Pronger, Iginla and Brodeur are the remaining members of the Canadian team that won gold in Salt Lake eight years ago. It was Canada's first gold in 50 years. Crosby was not selected for the team in 2006 that finished a disappointing seventh.
"It's a big transition from players that were there in '06 and '02 to what's going to be in 2010," Brodeur said. "The guys like Sidney Crosby, he's been like the top player since he got drafted, he's won a Stanley Cup now. This is a step for him to really establish himself. That's the beauty of our country -- you'll see a lot of young players really needed to take over. Before it was really rely on older players to do so. Now it's going to be different. In '02 we had Mario Lemieux with us, Joe Sakic, Rob Blake, a lot of older guys. Now, transition, like with the game, it's a lot of younger players. It'll be nice to see how every one is when the games start."
For Brodeur, being selected to his third Olympics continues a family legacy.
"(When) I grew up, it was all about Team Canada because my dad (Denis) played in the Olympics," Brodeur said. "It wasn't the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens, it was Team Canada in 1956 because my dad played. It was always a special place in our household."
"This is a pretty special honor and obviously it's been something that has been talked about for a while now so there is a lot of anticipation and I'm pretty proud to be part of it," Crosby told TSN.
Joining Crosby and Iginla up front will be Rick Nash, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Eric Staal, Jonathan Toews, Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau, Patrice Bergeron, Brenden Morrow and Mike Richards.
"I don't think any of us were 100 percent sure until we heard our names called this morning or until we go the phone call," Chicago's Toews said. "You hear a lot of talk and people are going to gossip and give their own opinion on who they think is going to be on the team. Once you hear your name mentioned it begins to sink in that you might have a chance. But I was definitely pretty nervous this morning."
Niedermayer and Pronger will be joined on the back end by Shea Weber, Dan Boyle, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Drew Doughty, who at 20-years-old is the youngest player on the roster.
"I'm just thrilled. I'm really honored," Seabrook said. "There're so many great players that weren't able to make the team. It's a dream come true and I'm really looking forward to it."
Keith echoed his teammate's comments.
"I'm extremely happy," Keith said. "My whole family was pretty excited this morning to get the news. To see your name listed there with all the great Canadian players, there're so many great players that didn't make the team. To be one of the guys lucky enough and fortunate enough to make the team, you definitely feel honored to be a part of it and we'll do everything we can to make it a success."
Brodeur will face competition for playing time from Marc-Andre Fleury and Roberto Luongo, who was with Brodeur in Torino four years ago.
"I'm dealing with the top goalies in Canada, so regardless if you think I'm going to be the No. 1, I still have to go out and prove it," Brodeur told NHL.com. "Competition in that way will be healthy and you know what, you never know. It happens quick. Games are won and lost pretty quickly in the Olympics and you need guys that want to be there to be there 100 percent mentally. I'm looking forward to that challenge. I think it keeps you accountable when you have people there to take your job."
"It's a big deal," Fleury said. "It's the Olympics. It's not only hockey. You want to do (well) for your country. You want to get that gold medal especially since it's in Canada. It should be fun."
Fleury said he raced for his cell phone after teammate Sidney Crosby had a voice mail from Yzerman Wednesday morning. "Sid checked his phone, and he had a voice mail," Fleury told Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I ran in to check it out and I had a nice voice mail (from Kevin Lowe)
"Pretty cool," Fleury continued. "Maybe we will all realize it more once we get there, but it's great news.
Fleury already is looking forward to partnering with Brodeur and Luongo.
"They're too amazing goalies, guys I look up to and love to watch play," he said. "It will be a pretty amazing chance to play with them."
The hype around the Olympics in Canada has been huge, and not lost on the players.
"All the pride you can think of is going to be in that building and around the country you're going to be able to feel it," Marleau told NHL.com. "It's being pumped up pretty good, but with all good intentions. It's center stage, basically."
Yzerman wound up leaving former Olympians like Vinny Lecavalier, Shane Doan, Ryan Smyth, Brad Richards, Jay Bouwmeester and Martin St. Louis off the roster. They played on Canada's disappointing team in 2006.
Mike Green and Jeff Carter were also getting serious consideration, but neither made the final cut.
Yzerman talked throughout this difficult process about how Team Canada would have a youthful appeal to it and he stayed true to his word. Twelve of the players on the 23 man roster are 25 or younger and 15 have never played in the Olympics before.
However, he also selected enough veterans with Olympic experience to guide the squad.
Brodeur and Pronger are headed to their fourth Olympic Games with Hockey Canada while Niedermayer, Nash, Iginla, Luongo, Heatley and Thornton all have Olympic experience as well.
Niedermayer had to withdraw from the 2006 Olympics due to injury.
If you wanted to project lines, Babcock could put Crosby in the middle of Nash and Iginla. That trio played together during the orientation camp in Calgary in August.
It would also seem appropriate for Babcock to put the three Sharks together since Thornton, Heatley and Marleau have already established excellent chemistry playing together inSan Jose. And, you'd expect Getzlaf and Perry will be on the same line.
Bergeron, who was the only player selected that wasn't invited to the orientation camp, also has a history of playing with Crosby. They were together in the 2005 World Junior Championship and at the 2006 World Championship.
"I think whoever you play with this group of players is going to be pretty awesome, Crosby said. "I look back to the evaluation camp this summer and I played with Rick Nash and Jarome Iginla and that was a pretty fun time for me. There is so much talent that I think making lines should be a pretty easy thing to do."
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