Three members played on '02 Olympic squad

Updated: April 9, 2004, 8:11 PM ET
Associated Press

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The United States enters the world hockey championships later this month with a roster full of NHL players after a dismal showing last year almost got it relegated to a secondary group.

The 17 players selected to the team Friday include three members of the squad that finished second at the 2002 Olympics -- goaltender Mike Dunham of the New York Rangers, forward Chris Drury of Buffalo and defenseman Aaron Miller of Los Angeles.

Six more players will be added before the tournament, which takes place April 24-May 9 in the Czech Republic. The results will be used to rank the teams for qualification for the 2006 Olympics.

The United States, which will be coached by Carolina's Peter Laviolette, is ranked seventh even though it won the silver medal in the last Olympics and the 1996 World Cup, the last time that event was played. Those were the only times it has used its best players, entering most world championships with a few second-line NHL players augmented by collegians and minor leaguers.

"I'm very disappointed in the United States," International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel said a year ago after the United States had to beat Japan in a relegation game to remain eligible for the top group in this year's championships.

"They've got something like 125 American NHL players, so you can ask why so few actually come play. The question we need to ask is, 'Were the efforts made by the federation to have a good team here?' It's a quality tournament, and the Americans need to field a quality team."

Many of the top Americans -- as well as the top players from other high-level hockey-playing nations -- are currently involved in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The six additions to the U.S. squad could be players from teams eliminated in the first round.

The forwards on the U.S. team are Drury; Jeff Halpern and Bates Battaglia of Washington; Mike Grier of Buffalo; Dustin Brown of Los Angeles; Matt Cullen of Florida; Ryan Malone of Pittsburgh; Richard Park of Minnesota; Erik Westrum of Phoenix and Andy Roach, who plays in Germany.

The defensemen are Miller, Jeff Jillson of Buffalo; Paul Mara of Phoenix; and Brett Hauer, who plays in Switzerland.

The goaltenders are Dunham, Ty Conklin of Edmonton and Alex Westlund, who plays in Russia.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press