Crosby, Brodeur join forces for Canada

Updated: December 30, 2009, 10:47 PM ET
Associated Press

Sidney Crosby isn't the only kid on a Canadian Olympic hockey team that is being built around youth, speed and teammates who have grown comfortable playing alongside each other.

The youngest captain in NHL history to win a Stanley Cup was chosen Wednesday for Canada's Olympic hockey team, four years after being left off the underachieving squad that finished a disappointing seventh in Turin, Italy.

Crosby was among the easiest picks for executive director Steve Yzerman, the longtime Red Wings captain whose choices have been debated for months in hockey-obsessed Canada, which virtually shut down for the team's unveiling.

"This is a special honor," Crosby said. "I'm pretty proud of it."

Among the top selections are New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur, who beat Pittsburgh 2-0 on Wednesday night to push his NHL shutouts record to 105; defensemen Scott Niedermayer of Anaheim and Chris Pronger of Philadelphia; Calgary forward Jarome Iginla, the star of Canada's 2002 gold-medal winning team; and Joe Thornton, the NHL scoring leader.

Niedermayer is the captain, with Pronger, Crosby and Iginla as alternates. Penguins star Crosby, 22, wasn't the youngest chosen -- Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty just turned 20, and Chicago forward Jonathan Toews is 21. Of the 23 players, 12 are 25 or younger, compared to only seven in 2006.

Joining Brodeur in goal will be 2006 holdover Roberto Luongo of Vancouver and Penguins Stanley Cup winner Marc-Andre Fleury.

Also chosen at forward were Rick Nash, Columbus; Thornton's San Jose teammates Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley; Philadelphia's Mike Richards; Patrice Bergeron, Boston; Eric Staal, Carolina; Anaheim's Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf; and Brenden Morrow, Dallas. Bergeron was the only player chosen who wasn't invited to the pre-Olympic camp in August.

The defensemen include Chicago's Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith; Dan Boyle, San Jose; and Shea Weber, Nashville.

Because there will be only one practice in Vancouver before Canada plays Norway on Feb. 16, Yzerman likely will unite current or former teammates such Seabrook and Keith, Perry and Getzlaf, Niedermayer and Pronger, plus the three Sharks forwards.

"We are playing against teams' top lines night in and night out, a lot of the players we are going to see," Seabrook said.

There were surprises, though not many.

Bypassed were Washington's Mike Green, the NHL's leading scorer among defensemen; Calgary defensemen trio Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regehr and Dion Phaneuf; Tampa Bay forwards Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier; Ottawa forward Mike Fisher; Philadelphia forward Jeff Carter; and Pittsburgh forward Jordan Staal, Eric's brother.

Green has some defensive liabilities but, considering Canada's power play converted only 13 percent of its chances in Turin, his scoring ability might have been an asset.

"He's an outstanding offensive defenseman," Yzerman said. "But we felt Drew Doughty in this case is a more complete player ... a better fit for us."

The final forward, who wasn't identified but apparently was Bergeron, wasn't chosen until five hours before the announcement.

"We spent hours and hours debating," Yzerman said. "There were very good players left off. But we think this is a team that will make Canadians proud. ... We're very confident in the team we've put together."

As the team was announced at a news conference during the world junior championships in Saskatoon, large banners of each player were unfurled on a podium behind Team Canada's leaders. The midday announcement was carried on 13 Canadian TV networks and cable channels.

Canada will be the gold-medal favorite on home ice, but in a single-elimination format once the medal round arrives, one bad day can mean the difference between winning and leaving without a medal. Belarus, with only one NHL player, upset Sweden in the 2002 quarterfinals.

"We fully understand the expectations," Yzerman said.

While assembling the team, Yzerman wanted coach Mike Babcock to be able to scan his bench at any time and find a player who can fix a problem. He also preferred players who perform their best against elite talent, but he didn't want too many natural centers on the wings.

"They had the toughest job in the world," Nash said of Yzerman and aides Ken Holland, Doug Armstrong and Kevin Lowe. "Everyone always jokes that Canada could have two teams."

With 17 of the NHL's top 30 scorers, Canada can field a virtual all-star team -- but, as Turin showed, that doesn't always translate into a gold medal.

Then, executive director Wayne Gretzky brought back many of the players who won the country's first gold medal in 50 years at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. But that left off rising players such as Crosby, whose talent and fresh legs might have helped avert shutout losses to Switzerland, Finland and Russia.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press