Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Updated: August 18, 1:32 PM ET
Team Canada has tough decision ahead
By Scott Burnside
Special to ESPN.com
KELOWNA, British Columbia -- After just a few hours on the ice at this camp, it is already apparent Canada has an embarrassment of riches in terms of depth of talent at every position. It also sets the stage for what will be painful, perhaps controversial, decisions regarding the selection of the team, likely sometime in mid-December.
Barring injury, Chris Pronger, Adam Foote, Rob Blake and Scott Niedermayer are guaranteed spots along the Canadian blue line, leaving Ed Jovanovski, Robyn Regehr, Wade Redden, Chris Phillips, Jay Bouwmeester, Eric Brewer, Dan Boyle and Scott Hannan to fight for three or four spots.
"They're not going to be easy decisions to make," head coach Pat Quinn said. "It just means someone gets disappointed at the end that's probably capable of playing."
The decisions don't get any easier up front, where a bevy of talented players like Keith Primeau, Alex Tanguay, Dany Heatley, Michael Peca, Patrick Marleau, Brenden Morrow, Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby and Brendan Morrison will be battling for a handful of available spots.
"When you get down to the nitty-gritty, some of the guys are so evenly matched, it makes it tough to make the exact right decision," Team Canada executive director Wayne Gretzky said. "And you only know if you made the right decision if you're successful."
Bertuzzi already impressing Great One
Among those who impressed during the camp's first scrimmage were Lecavalier, St. Louis, Marty Turco and, perhaps surprisingly given the emotion of the past few days, Todd Bertuzzi.
"I think he's been really good," Gretzky said. "Most big players when they lose the puck they have that little bit of a turn or they kind of circle or swoosh. He stops so strong and sharp for a big guy. He just stops on a dime; he's back the other way.
"Let's be honest, he's probably a little nervous right now," Gretzky added. "We really believe he's going to be a big part of this team. We were talking today, with the new rules, how do you stop him? You can't hook him, you can't hold him."
A little redemption for CuJo
Back in 2002, Gretzky was part of the decision-making process that saw Curtis Joseph supplanted as the No. 1 goalie for Canada's Olympic team. It was announced Wednesday that Joseph signed a one-year deal with the Phoenix Coyotes that could see him earn up to $2.25 million, depending on bonuses for playing time and playoff success.
Instrumental in Joseph's signing was a series of phone calls from Gretzky, now the head coach of the Coyotes.
"He wasn't sure about his family situation," said Gretzky, who assured Joseph he can return home to Toronto to be with his family during breaks in the Coyotes' schedule.
"We want him to feel comfortable and be comfortable in Phoenix and I think he will. I think it'll be great for him," Gretzky said. "I know he's a competitor. I know that when he didn't play in '02 in the end he was disappointed, but he was disappointed for the right reasons. There's good ways to handle that and bad ways to handle that. He handled himself very well. He was very positive in the locker room but obviously very disappointed, he wanted to be the starting goalie."
He will get that chance now in Phoenix, where he will battle Brian Boucher for playing time.
Minding the nets
The man who took over for Joseph and led Canada to its first gold medal in 50 years back in 2002 was Martin Brodeur. It was a performance that cemented his position as the heir to Patrick Roy's throne as the NHL's finest netminder, and come February when the Olympic tournament starts Brodeur will once again be the main man in the Canadian nets.
"Listen, Marty's just a special person and he's a special goalie," said Gretzky. "Let's face it, we expect Marty to be our go-to guy."
Still, given the compressed schedule at the Olympic tournament that will see Canada open with five games in seven days, Brodeur will share playing time with Jose Theodore, Roberto Luongo or Turco, the other three goalies at this orientation camp.
"I know these guys are here to take my job so I have to be better," Brodeur said.
Having an understudy who is not just technically capable but also mentally prepared to take over in a short tournament like the Olympics is crucial. During last summer's World Cup of Hockey, Luongo was outstanding after being pressed into action against the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals when Brodeur was sidelined with a hand injury.
"Let me tell you, Luongo doesn't play in the Czech game the way he did, we don't win the Czech game in the World Cup. Simple as that," Gretzky said. "I just think they've really closed the gap. Those younger goalies have matured tremendously fast."
Ironic return for Mogilny
Brodeur was delighted to learn that former New Jersey teammate Alexander Mogilny was returning to the Devils after the gifted Russian forward signed a two-year deal worth $7 million on Tuesday. Still, Brodeur did find a bit of irony in the situation, given that Mogilny wasn't re-signed by Devils GM Lou Lamoriello after helping New Jersey to a Cup win in 2000 and the Cup finals in 2001.
"Lou wouldn't give him that [much] after we won the Stanley Cup. Now we have a new system he gives him that," Brodeur said.
I'm going to Disney World!
And finally with Brodeur, was there a highlight of his lockout season?
"I went to the Super Bowl. It was awesome," Brodeur said. "There's no way I can do it during the regular season."
Brodeur put aside the Devils' long-standing rivalry with the Philadelphia Flyers and actually cheered for the Eagles in their loss to New England.
It must be the jersey
It's not quite the space race, but after months of secret planning and testing, Bauer Nike Hockey unveiled its prototype hockey jersey and socks that will be worn by most international teams at the World Junior Championships in December and the Turin Olympics in February.
The streamlined, vented outfits will reduce the overall weight of the hockey uniform by 43 percent and provide a 15 percent reduction in aerodynamic drag.
"We really believe this uniform is going to create a revolution in hockey," said Jordan Wand, global director of Nike's advanced innovation team.
The cost of developing the materials ran to the "middle six figures," said Duke Stump, vice president of product marketing for the company.
Because of licensing agreements with the NHL, don't look for the Nike uniforms at your local NHL rink anytime soon, although it's rumored top competitor Reebok is working on a similar product.
Scott Burnside is a freelance writer based in Atlanta and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.