Crosby refuses to criticize Canada for Olympic snub

Updated: March 1, 2006, 8:16 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby's only regret about the Olympics is he won't be able to play in them for another four years, not that he was passed over for the just-concluded Winter Games.

Sidney Crosby
Crosby

The Penguins' rookie star declined again Wednesday to criticize Team Canada officials for bypassing him despite the Canadians' poor showing in Torino, Italy, where they failed to reach the semifinals four years after winning the gold in Salt Lake City.

"When I watched the first game, it was tough because I think that was the time I realized it's probably going to be another four years before I had the opportunity,'' Crosby said. "After that, I just became a fan. I was pulling for them and I wanted them to do well. It's unfortunate it didn't, but I said before Canada had a lot of expectations and they're not going to win gold every time.''

The Canadians went with accomplished veterans and passed over younger players such as the 18-year-old Crosby, Ottawa's Jason Spezza, Carolina's Eric Staal and Calgary's Dion Phaneuf. But after winning their first two games easily, they were beaten by Switzerland -- in one of the biggest upsets in Canadian Olympic history -- and Finland in a pair of 2-0 losses.

After they beat the Czech Republic 3-2, they were eliminated in the quarterfinals by Russia in another 2-0 defeat -- their third shutout loss in six games. That loss to one of the youngest teams in the 12-team field raised questions whether Team Canada executive director Wayne Gretzky should have gone with younger players who might have stayed fresh during the demanding tournament.

That Capitals rookie Alexander Ovechkin scored the game-winning goal in that loss also created more doubts about Canada's decision to go with an older roster.

Crosby and Ovechkin, arguably the top candidates for the NHL rookie of the year award, have often seemed to play a game of one-ups-manship when their teams went head-to-head this season, with each trying to outdo the other. In their first three games against each other, Crosby had three goals and five assists and Ovechkin has two goals and an assist.

Crosby had 28 goals and 37 assists in 58 games before the break, while Ovechkin had 36 goals and 33 assists in 55 games, then added another goal in his first post-break game Tuesday. Finland's Olli Jokinen and Teemu Selanne led Olympic goal scorers with six, and Ovechkin was one of four players with five goals.

"When we play each other, the competitive nature of both of us is to want to do well,'' Crosby said. "I'm sure there's a little bit more adrenalin when that does happen. But you can't talk about the what ifs. That's a great level of hockey over there, he's a great player and he played well. But that's not going to put situations in my mind and make me say, 'If I was there, what could I do or couldn't do?' I'm not going to second guess.''

Crosby also wouldn't blame Canada's failure to get a medal on the decision not to take him and some of Canada's other rising stars.

"It's a one-game playoff, it's not like the Stanley Cup playoffs where it's a four-of-seven series,'' he said. "It's one game, and one mistake kills you. I thought they were coming hard in the third period [against Russia], and they had chances for two or three goals and they couldn't put them in. I don't think it's a really huge, huge thing where they weren't there or anything like that. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

"You look at their team and it was an amazing team, and they had a lot of guys who were doing their jobs, but it just didn't work.''

Not only is Crosby not bitter about being passed over, he said he would gladly play for Canada in the world championships in Latvia this spring if asked. The Penguins took the NHL's worst record into the Olympic break and have no chance for the playoffs, so Crosby would be free to participate.

"Yeah, definitely I'd be there,'' he said. "I'd like to keep playing.''


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press