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Thursday, October 29, 2009
Steve Yzerman says 2010 Team Canada roster 'starting to take shape'


Steve Yzerman doesn't have a red suit and a white beard, but you can bet he's making his list and checking it twice.

And these days, Santa Claus doesn't hold a candle to the Team Canada GM as the 2010 Olympics host country begins to get a little ga-ga as the February Games approach.

Calm down, Canada. Mr. Yzerman and his staff are working their butts off, and the men's Olympic hockey team is slowly coming together.

"My impression now is that things are starting to become a little clearer, in our mind, on the players," Yzerman told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "I think the roster is starting to take shape a little bit."

Not that it's getting any easier.

"You write down some names on paper and you realize, whoa, there's going to be some difficult decisions between very, very good players and guys that playing very well," Yzerman said. "But it's starting to shape up a little bit."

It's a busy time for Yzerman, who will soon be in Toronto for his Hockey Hall of Fame induction. The same dedication that made him one of the world's top players during his era has transferred itself to his Team Canada job. He is spending night and day on this. On Wednesday, he hopped into a rental car in Edmonton, where his Red Wings had landed, drove south to Calgary to catch the Avalanche-Flames game that night before driving back north to Edmonton in time for tonight's game between the Wings and Oilers.

"This is a Team Canada mission," Yzerman joked from his rental car.

He figures he's taken in more than a dozen games already through the first 28 days of October and watched countless more on TV.

"I'll watch one at night on TV and then TiVo another and watch it on the bike in the morning," Yzerman said.

And he has spies everywhere. Not just official Team Canada staff personnel like Ken Holland, Kevin Lowe and Doug Armstrong, but other friends are chipping in.

"He calls me quite a bit on different things," Scotty Bowman, hockey's all-time winningest coach, told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "He's getting opinions from a lot of different people."

Bowman's Sarasota winter home is a short drive away from Tampa Bay Lightning games. He'll get his marching orders from Yzerman.

"He'll tell me whoever plays in Tampa, 'Can you go look at these guys for me?' He's spending a lot of time watching these players. He's dedicated," Bowman said.

"I've got people everywhere," Yzerman said with a laugh. "Just trying to keep tabs on what's going on, get their thoughts on the game, and reaffirm or change any opinions we might have [on players]."

He believes it's important to involve different voices and different sets of eyes.

"Because I go into a game the other night, Philly-San Jose, thinking this would be a really good game," Yzerman said. "Both teams played the night before and it was kind of a sloppy game. Now, I had seen these players before, so I knew better, but you don't want one game like that to influence your opinion. So it's better to talk to as many people as possible."

Lowe is an important pillar in Yzerman's group; the Edmonton Oilers president was Wayne Gretzky's top lieutenant on the past two Canadian Olympic teams. Gretzky officially remains an advisor to this group, and Yzerman plans to reach out to No. 99.

"I'll be giving him a call in the next couple of weeks. I've got a couple of thoughts I want to get from him," Yzerman said. "But Kevin went through it with Wayne. He knows what this is about. We have an idea of what kind of team we want to put together and how the coaches want to play. We'll try and keep this simple and not overcomplicate it."

Tick-tock, tick-tock … December is fast approaching.