Report: Gretzky, Lemieux to meet Saturday
Now that Steve Yzerman has withdrawn his name from consideration for Canada's Olympic hockey team, there's another question for executive director Wayne Gretzky: what about Super Mario?
During the offseason, Gretzky all but said that Yzerman and Mario Lemieux could make up their own minds as to whether they'd want to play in the 2006 Games in Turin, Italy.
While scouting for Team Canada at Tuesday's Kings-Maple Leafs game in Toronto, Gretzky told The Canadian Press his stance hasn't changed.
''I haven't talked to Mario yet but I anticipate seeing him in Pittsburgh on Saturday and getting a chance to chat with him,'' Gretzky told The CP. ''But he can wait right until the end to make up his mind. He deserves that chance for what he's done in the game."
Lemieux told ESPN.com in late November that he wasn't sure he expected to be at the 2006 Winter Olympics, saying only the Canadian players who are playing well when the team is announced in late December should make the team, regardless of who the player is.
The Penguins' captain, who has already been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, said then that he would "absolutely" withdraw his name from consideration if he wasn't playing well or he didn't feel physically like he could compete in the tournament.
"There's too many good young players now to take a spot just to take a spot because you're a name. That wouldn't be right for Team Canada or myself. Whoever's playing the best. As I said, we've got so many great young players now in Canada that can do the job," Lemieux then told ESPN.com. "But if I am playing well and they want me there, I will be there for them, as well."
Although it's not really his call to make, Lemieux said he would be happy to give up his spot on the Olympic roster for Crosby, who leads all rookie scorers with 25 points in 21 games. "That'd be fine," Lemieux told ESPN.com. "That'd be fine with me."
According to The Canadian Press report, Gretzky, along with Kevin Lowe, Steve Tambellini and Marc Habscheid, began an Olympic scouting trip while his Coyotes are off until Sunday. The Canadian Press' report added that the group plans to go to New Jersey and Philadelphia and New Jersey again before meeting with Team Canada's coaching staff to narrow down its preliminary list of 81 potential players.
The deadline for the 23-man Olympic rosters is Dec. 22, but the team will make their announcement on Dec. 21.
''The only way to really get a handle on it now is for us to get together in person and talk about each player and what they bring to the table,'' Gretzky told The CP. ''So we'll do that this week. It's not going to be easy. All these players are good.
''You could pick 16 players and then add seven guys and your seven guys will be different than our seven guys but both teams could still be successful. Which is a great thing for Canadian hockey, it shows the depth that we have. To pick down to the final 23 is going to be tough.''
Yzerman pulled out of the running Sunday after making a call to Gretzky. Yzerman has three goals and five assists in 19 games this season.
''I talked to him on Sunday night,'' Gretzky told The Canadian Press. ''He called me after his game. He told me he had decided that it was best for him to step aside. I told him that was fine. I thought it showed a tremendous amount of class that he called.''