Crosby and Fleury received the phone call they have anticipated their entire lives on Wednesday afternoon when it was confirmed both will be representing Team Canada in the Olympic Games scheduled for Feb. 12-28 in Vancouver, British Columbia. Both players will be making their debuts on the Olympic stage.
“We were in a meeting so I actually missed the first call,” Crosby said. “I was happy to get it. I am very excited.”
“Sid checked his phone and he had a voicemail so I went in and checked it out,” Fleury said. “I had a voicemail too.”
Neither Crosby’s nor Fleury’s selection to the squad was much of a surprise based upon the way each has elevated his game during the past two postseasons. During back-to-back runs to the Stanley Cup Final Crosby has scored 58 points (21G-37A) in 44 games while Fleury has posted a 30-14 record. As a vice president for the Detroit Red Wings, Yzerman has had a front-row seat for the ‘Crosby and Fleury Show’ as Detroit has been the Penguins’ opponent during both Finals.
“(It) probably didn’t seal the deal but I am sure it helped,” Fleury said. “I got a little bit more exposure time I guess. We got a big win so I’m sure that helped a lot.”
For Crosby, getting the call from Yzerman, his boyhood idol, made the moment even sweeter.
“He was a role model for me,” Crosby said. “To receive the call from him was pretty special.”
Crosby, 22, was a surprise omission from the Canadian roster during his rookie campaign in 2005-06. Four years later he was possibly the safest lock on the roster as the reigning captain of the Stanley Cup champions and the face of the entire National Hockey League. Crosby even took part in the Olympic Torch Relay when he carried the Olympic Torch in his native province of Nova Scotia on Nov. 18.
Although he is a rookie to Olympic competition, this will not be the first time Crosby has represented Canada in international competition. He most recently wore the red and white during the 2006 World Championships in Riga, Latvia. While Canada failed to place in the tournament, Crosby paced all scorers with 16 points (8G-8A) in nine games.
Crosby also donned the maple leaf sweater in two World Junior Championships in 2004 and ’05. In 12 games over the two tournaments Crosby registered 14 points (8G-6A) as the Canadians took home a silver medal in ’04 and the gold in ’05.
|Sidney Crosby registered 16 points (8G-8A) in nine games for the Canadians during the 2006 World Championships. Credit - Getty Images |
Already the youngest scoring champion and youngest captain to lead his team to a Stanley Cup in NHL history, Crosby’s strong play in ’09-10 has him poised to take on a leading role for the Canadians. He enters Wednesday ranked fifth in the league with 48 points (23G-25A), ninth with a plus-14 rating and eighth with a 58.1 winning percentage on the faceoff dots.
“I think you always want to lead by example,” Crosby said. “You try to use your experiences as best as you can to kind of prepare you. I think for any of the younger guys, we have some pretty unbelievable leaders in that room.”
Despite being a newbie to Olympic competition Crosby was named one of three alternate captains for the Canadians along with the Calgary Flames Jarome Iginla and the Philadelphia Flyers Chris Pronger. Anaheim defenseman Scott Niedermayer will serve as the team captain.
“You look at the (Scott) Niedermayer’s, the (Jarome) Iginla’s and (Chris) Pronger,” Crosby said. “These guys have been through a lot of these situations so we can learn a lot from them. I think as a younger player you try to lead with your game.
“You know you haven’t been through an Olympics like these guys have. They know what to expect and how to prepare for it. I think a lot of us will be following the great example they have.”
It is ironic the Penguins are set to take on the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Wednesday night because the No. 1 netminders for each team – Fleury for the Penguins and Martin Brodeur of the Devils – are vying with Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo for the same position with Team Canada.
“They are two amazing goalies and guys I look up to and love to watch play,” Fleury said. “Hopefully it will be fun to have a chance to be with them.”
Fleury has come a long way in a short period for the Penguins, transforming from a goaltender who relied more on his outstanding athleticism to a backstop who is as technically sound as any goalie in the NHL. A strong start to the 2009-10 season made his selection almost a near-lock as well.
“I wasn’t really thinking about it – not at all actually,” Fleury said. “It has always been a dream. I think as a hockey player you want to get that Stanley Cup and have that chance to play for a gold medal. I think it’s pretty awesome.”
If there were any doubts about Fleury’s ability to carry a team to the promise land each one was erased by the four series and career defining saves Fleury made during the 2009 postseason.
Fleury’s string of game-saving stops began with his right-toe save on Jeff Carter in Game 2 of a Round 1 victory over the division-rival Philadelphia Flyers and concluded with a miraculous last-second stop with his right shoulder on Nicklas Lidstrom in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. In between those his glove save on Alexander Ovechkin’s breakaway attempt in Game 7 of the second round and a diving effort to deny Eric Staal in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals spearheaded series wins.
|Marc-Andre Fleury led the Canadians to back-to-back silver medals in the 2003 and '04 World Junior Championships. Credit - Getty Images |
The 25-year-old Fleury has been nearly unbeatable at times once again for the Penguins this year. His 22 wins rank second (tied) behind Brodeur as Fleury is on pace to break his career high total of 40 victories in ’06-07. He began the year 8-0 between the pipes, the longest winning streak at any point in his career.
Like Crosby, Fleury is not new to international competition, although it has been a while since his last appearance. Fleury was the go-to-guy for the Canadians in both the 2003 and ’04 World Junior Championships. He was named to the all-tournament team in ’03 and led the Canadians to back-to-back silver medals. Fleury looks forward to returning to the international stage.
“I think it’s a big deal,” he said. “It’s the Olympics. It is not only hockey but you want to do well for your country. You want to get that gold medal. Since the Games are in Canada it will be a little more fun.”
The selections of Crosby and Fleury to Team Canada boosts the official number of Penguins participants in the 2010 Games to four with last week’s announcement that Sergei Gonchar and Evgeni Malkin
would each be representing Team Russia.
More good new is anticipated on Friday when the United States announces their team during the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park. Defenseman Brooks Orpik
was an invitee to the Team USA summer camp and is expected to make his Olympic debut. Strong play through the first half from three-time Olympian Bill Guerin and emerging blueliner Alex Goligoski has thrust both into consideration for final roster spots with the Americans.
Notes: Former Penguins winger Jaromir Jagr, the second-leading scorer in franchise history, was named to the Czech Republic roster on Wednesday. On Tuesday winger Miroslav Satan, who helped the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in June, was selected to the Slovakian roster.