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Canadian players know it's gold or bust

Tuesday, 02.09.2010 / 9:33 AM / All-Access Vancouver

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Canadian players know it's gold or bust
Expectation for Team Canada at the Vancouver Games is off the charts, but the players and coaches are ready to face the heat.
Canada's poor showing in Torino four years ago can be blamed on "overconfidence" that carried over from winning gold at the 2002 Olympics and the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, Martin Brodeur told NHL.com.

"It killed us," Brodeur said. "We had so much success in '02 and '04, then you come into '06 with similar players and you think, 'Oh, we'll turn it on when we need to.' You know what, we ran dry on offense and that was it. That's how tough the tournament is."

Brodeur doesn't anticipate overconfidence this time around, not with the insane amount of pressure they are facing in Vancouver beginning next week.

Canada isn't just favored to win gold, an entire population of more than 30 million people expects that the boys will be singing "O Canada" on the medal stand Feb. 28.

"Everybody in Canada expects gold and nothing else," Marc-Andre Fleury told NHL.com. "I guess that's what we have to get."

To get it, Brodeur said the 23-man team will have to follow the guidelines of just one simple word:

"That pressure is going to make us accountable to play well every time we go on the ice. We know we have 30-something million people watching us and we're in our own country. For us, maybe it's something we need, to be accountable to each other and the way we play. We're going to have to build on it." -- Martin Brodeur

Accountability.

"That pressure is going to make us accountable to play well every time we go on the ice," he said. "We know we have 30-something million people watching us and we're in our own country. For us, maybe it's something we need, to be accountable to each other and the way we play. We're going to have to build on it."

The players may think they know what kind of a buzz saw they'll be walking into, but it'll probably be bigger than anything they even expect.

"I think it's still unknown," Brodeur said.

To counter what they don't know, Brodeur said they will be putting their faith and trust in the folks over at Hockey Canada.

"I guarantee you that Hockey Canada, the coaching staff and the players, we'll get ourselves in a situation where we won't be vulnerable to the pressure," Brodeur said. "You know it's going to be there, but it's about being composed and how we deal with the whole atmosphere over there."

Executive Director Steve Yzerman chose a lot of the players for Team Canada based on their histories of handling pressure environments. In fact, Duncan Keith is the only Canadian player who hasn't won either a Stanley Cup or a gold medal at the Olympics, World Championships, World Juniors or World Cup of Hockey. Keith, though, may be leading in the race for the Norris Trophy this season.

Nothing should intimidate this team. At least, it's not supposed to.

"What pressure means is there are expectations and the reason there are expectations is because you have a chance. Isn't that all you can ever ask for?" coach Mike Babcock told NHL.com. "To me, that's fantastic. That you're country is all fired up. Isn't that a great thing? I can't see anything negative in it."

Babcock expects every decision he makes to get second guessed in the way that nearly every roster decision Yzerman made was second guessed.

"Absolutely, but I get second-guessed already," Babcock said. "You don't worry about it so much and just go about do your thing. That's what we're going to do. I'm a big believer in if you do good things than good things are going to happen. You try to make sure you have done everything possible to have the best plan so the players don't have to worry about anything but playing."

Even the coaching and the management staffs were handpicked based on experience to counteract against any of the unrelenting pressure.

Jacques Lemaire, Lindy Ruff and Ken Hitchcock all have more coaching experience than Babcock just like Doug Armstrong, Ken Holland and Kevin Lowe have more managerial experience than Yzerman.

"Everybody from the management team to the coaching staff to the players is taking a different role and the reason they are taking a different role and are willing to accept it is that they want to be part of something like this," Babcock said. "Let's be honest, it's worth it. It's about our country and 37 million people are going to tune into every game. I think that's awesome."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com