From Mike Modano
to Patrick Kane
, a 39-year-old seeking one last chance at gold to a 20-year-old seeking his first, USA Hockey has some difficult roster decisions to make before the Olympic tournament begins in Vancouver on Feb. 12.
The first round of those decisions was announced Tuesday when USA Hockey revealed 34 players representing 22 NHL teams have been invited to participate in the 2010 U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Orientation Camp next month.
The camp, which runs from Aug. 17-19 at Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodridge, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, will not yield any results. It is merely an event designed to assist Team USA's executive and coaching staffs in preparation for the big tournament in B.C.
Team USA General Manager Brian Burke
stressed that an extra 50 players will be put into an anti-doping program to give USA Hockey at least 84 candidates for the 23-man roster it will ice at the 2010 Winter Games. But the players invited to the orientation camp, including 19 forwards, 12 defensemen and three goalies, certainly do have the upper hand in landing a spot on the final roster that will be announced sometime in late December.
"We want that group tighter and we want the group to feel some kinship with the management team and the coaching staff," Burke said of what he hopes to gain from the orientation camp. "If we do our job the entire team will come out of this camp, but my suspicion, knowing how competitive these athletes are, that's not going to be the case."
Burke said he and his seven-person management team wanted to keep the number of invitees to around 30, but came up with 34 because eliminating some players became too hard to do.
Of the group of invitees, only Mike Modano
is from the old guard of USA Hockey "warriors," as Burke calls them. Keith Tkachuk
, Bill Guerin
, Chris Chelios
, Brian Rolston
and Doug Weight
all fit into that category, but were not invited.
Burke said all of the veterans are still in play for the final roster, but Modano, the NHL's all-time leading American-born scorer, got the invite because he has shown a chameleon-like ability to adapt to his ever-changing role with the Dallas Stars
"If you look at the evolution of the Dallas hockey club, Mike Modano
has been asked to accept an increasingly defensive role and he's the all-time leading scorer among American players," Burke said. "Mike's production has fallen off, but his usefulness as a player has not. It's just that his role has changed and he's accepted that."
Only five of the invitees have competed in the Olympics before, including Modano (1998, 2002, 2006), Chris Drury
(2002, 2006), Scott Gomez
(2006), Brian Rafalski
(2002, 2006) and Jamie Langenbrunner
"We went through and looked at the playoff experience of the group and the leadership situations and the pressure situations and we're satisfied," Burke said. "The goal has to be to take the most competitive group of athletes and trust that your leadership will deliver."
Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas
of the Boston Bruins
headlines the goalies picked for the camp. Buffalo's Ryan Miller
and Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick
were also invited. Not on the list of invitees is oft-injured New York Islanders
goalie Rick DiPietro
, who was on the 2006 Olympic roster but missed almost all of 2008-09 with injuries.
Burke, who attempted to reach out to all of the old guard and explain the thinking, said he tried to get a hold of DiPietro on Monday night, but was unsuccessful. He said as far as he knows DiPietro's injuries would not have allowed him to play in August anyway.
Of the former Olympians Burke did reach, including Guerin and Tkachuk, he said the response was unified.
"They all said the same thing: 'I understand,' " Burke said. "These guys have had their day in the sun and we are not closing any doors here. These guys are very much alive."
Youth, though, rules in USA Hockey these days and it's evident in the list of invitees. Half of the invitees are 24 or younger. The only 30 year olds in the group are Modano, Thomas, Rafalski, Langenbrunner, Drury and Rob Scuderi
Chicago's Kane is the youngest player invited, but not by much. New York Islanders
forward Kyle Okposo
and St. Louis defenseman Erik Johnson
, who missed all of the 2008-09 season with a knee injury, also have 1988 birthdays.
Burke said Johnson was invited because of "what we know of the player and what we know he can be." Phil Kessel
is still 21 and T.J. Oshie
, Bobby Ryan
and Jack Johnson
are all only 22. Quick and Paul Stastny
are 23 while David Booth
, Dustin Brown
, Ryan Callahan
, Ryan Kesler
, Zach Parise
, Joe Pavelski
and Ryan Suter
are all 24.
"We're turning the page to a large extent," Burke said.
Burke is prepared for Team USA to be the youngest in the field at the Olympics, but he believes the 34 invitees offer a wide range of versatility, including size, speed, toughness and scoring touch that will allow Team USA to battle for gold.
"We tried to identify people that can perform certain tasks on a hockey team," he said. "We have some first violins and some tuba players, too. We're happy with the group."
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com