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Saturday, May 15, 2004
Gretzky omits suspended forward, several stars

Associated Press

CALGARY, Alberta -- Suspended Vancouver forward Todd Bertuzzi was left off Canada's roster Saturday for the World Cup of Hockey.

Paul Kariya, Eric Lindros, Keith Primeau, Jose Theodore and Brendan Shanahan also were among the notable omissions from executive director Wayne Gretzky's team.

The announcement at Calgary's Saddledome came during an off-day in the Western Conference finals between the Flames and the San Jose Sharks.

Gretzky's choices were an intriguing mix of youth and experience, with grinders playing alongside the NHL's best scorers. Several young Canadian stars got their first call for a major international tournament, including Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis, Boston's Joe Thornton, San Jose's Patrick Marleau and Atlanta's Dany Heatley.

"There's so much talent in Canadian hockey," Gretzky said. "We should be proud of the talent we're producing because we could have two very good hockey clubs."

The United States team will be coached by San Jose's Ron Wilson, but the roster hasn't been named. The tournament will be held in six countries from Aug. 30 to the final Sept. 14 in Toronto.

Bertuzzi was banned from the NHL indefinitely in March for his vicious blind-side hit on Colorado's Steve Moore, and commissioner Gary Bettman would have had to reinstate Bertuzzi for the tournament, a joint venture between the league and the players' union.

"We would be lying if we didn't say we had him in the mix of 15 [forwards] to be on this hockey team," Gretzky said. "On the other side of it, we also felt that it was a decision & for the NHL itself to make the ruling on Todd Bertuzzi and whether he be reinstated."

Pat Morris, Bertuzzi's Toronto-based agent, declined comment when reached by The Associated Press.

Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman will provide veteran leadership for Canada, though Lemieux is uncertain whether his hip will be healthy enough to allow him to play. Gretzky plans to decide on Lemieux shortly after training camp opens Aug. 21 in Ottawa.

"If he can't do it, maybe some things will change," Gretzky said. "But we're not expecting Mario to have any complications."

Goalie Martin Brodeur, who backstopped Canada to the gold medal at the Salt Lake City Olympics, will return. His backups will be Toronto's Ed Belfour and Florida's Roberto Luongo, who excelled in Canada's victories at the last two world championships.

Gretzky chose six defensemen from the Olympic team: Colorado's Rob Blake and Adam Foote, St. Louis' Chris Pronger, Vancouver's Ed Jovanovski, New Jersey's Scott Niedermayer and Edmonton's Eric Brewer. Ottawa's Wade Redden and Calgary's Robyn Regehr were the new additions.

"We didn't have any shortage of talented defensemen who could fill those two spots," Gretzky said.

Just six forwards return from the Salt Lake City team: Lemieux, Yzerman, Joe Sakic, Jarome Iginla, Ryan Smyth and Simon Gagne. The newcomers are Heatley, Marleau, Thornton, St. Louis, Tampa Bay's Brad Richards, Phoenix's Shane Doan, Dallas' Brenden Morrow and Detroit's Kirk Maltby and Kris Draper.

"There are no surprises, as far as I'm concerned," Gretzky said. "Each and every guy on this team deserves to be there."