Team Canada goes younger at camp

7/2/2009 - NHL Sidney Crosby

CALGARY, Alberta -- Sidney Crosby, left off the team as an 18-year-old in 2006, is among 46 players invited to the Canada Olympic hockey orientation camp next month.

Also chosen were the NHL's three Staal brothers, five goaltenders and Colorado forward Joe Sakic, who turns 40 next week and would be the team's oldest player if selected.

Executive director Steve Yzerman said the 23-man team won't necessarily be chosen from those attending, although all the 2002 and 2006 Olympians were in camp.

Among those not selected for the Aug. 24-27 camp in Calgary are forwards Steven Stamkos, Marc Savard and Jason Spezza, goaltenders Chris Osgood, Carey Price and Marty Turco and defenseman Brian Campbell.

"We spent a lot of time, had a lot of discussion," Yzerman said. "What we've tried to do is build a list and cover all of the aspects that this team will be made up of."

The 19-year-old Stamkos had 23 goals and 46 points as a rookie for Tampa Bay last season, then had seven goals and four assists in nine games during the world championships.

"Stamkos was a guy we debated down to the last minute," Yzerman said during a conference call. "He'll be a player I'll watch this fall."

While Sakic is on the list of players invited, Yzerman said that the Avalanche captain is under no pressure to decide if he wants to play next season,

"I didn't ask him [Sakic] what his plans were," Yzerman told the Toronto Globe and Mail. "I understand the process he's going through; because I went through it myself recently. I told him, whenever he came to his decision, that's fine with me, and not to feel any pressure."

Like Sakic, Dallas Stars captain Brenden Morrow and Minnesota Wild defenseman Brent Burns spent most of the 2008-09 season in the injured list but were included in the invite list.

"I felt they're both very, very good players," Yzerman said. "Brenden Morrow's playoffs two years ago were outstanding. He brings real skill, grit and heart to a team. If he can get back to playing at the level he was at before he hurt his knee, he'd be a good addition. For him, it's important to get off to a good start."

The 2006 team that did not medal in Turin was composed largely of players who returned from the gold medal-winning team in Salt Lake City four years before. Wayne Gretzky, the executive director of both teams, was criticized for leaning too heavily on older players in Italy and not including younger stars such as Crosby, one of the NHL's leading scorers as a rookie that season, and defenseman Dion Phaneuf of Calgary.

"We grow up wanting to win the [Stanley] Cup, but this is something more than hockey. It's a cultural thing," said Crosby to the Associated Press. "These [Olympians] are people that have trained their whole lives to compete in one winter games. The whole country comes together like nobody has seen before. I've seen it in Italy, but I can't imagine what it would be like in Canada."

There will be numerous younger players in Calgary, including Crosby, Chicago forward Jonathan Toews, Columbus goalie Steve Mason, Boston forward Milan Lucic and Jordan Staal. Nineteen players are 25 or younger.

Lucic's prescence as well as that of Detroit Red Wings forward Daniel Cleary surprised some, but Yzerman said Lucic has more attributes than a physical edge.

"You say muscle. I'm not bringing someone in to go out and beat up the other team," Yzerman said to the Globe and Mail. "That's not the way you're going to be effective in the tournament. But big, strong fast players give you an advantage. He has the potential to really add a dimension to our team that can be beneficial."

As for Cleary, Yzerman cited his versatility as a major assett for Team Canada.

"The way he is used in Detroit, he plays all three different forward positions," Yzerman said. "He's used on both power play and penalty killing. He can go from playing on the top line to playing a checking role on the third line, so he's a versatile guy that can play in different roles."

Among those invited are four players each from the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames and Philadelphia Flyers. The Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins are represented by Crosby, forward Jordan Staal and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

Staal's brothers, forward Eric Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes and defenseman Marc Staal of the New York Rangers, also are going.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.