On Jan. 7, hockey fans across Canada held their collective breathe as Steve Yzerman and Canada’s Olympic brass announced the 25 men who will try to defend hockey gold in Sochi, Russia.
And it will take all 25 members of the team to take gold, according to members of the SAIT Trojans men’s hockey team.
Among the players named to Canada’s Olympic roster is Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.
This is Crosby’s second time representing Canada in the Olympics after a very successful debut four years ago in Vancouver, where he was tied for second on the team in scoring.
Crosby also scored the illustrious “Golden Goal” in overtime of the Gold Medal Game, clinching Canada’s second gold medal in three Olympics. He currently leads the NHL in points and will be looked to as a leader on and off the ice for Canada.
“Crosby’s inclusion was automatic. He is the best player on Earth,” says SAIT Trojans forward Brad Drobot.
“That being said, he will not win it alone. Every player playing their role will.”
There are 11 players returning from the 2010 Gold Medal team, including Crosby, goalie Roberto Luongo, former Calgary Hitmen player Ryan Getzlaf, and two-time Stanley Cup winning captain Jonathan Toews.
Toews led Canada in scoring during the 2010 tournament, and has proven to be as important a leader as Crosby. Although his inclusion on the 2010 roster may have been a shock to some fans, being named to 2014’s roster was almost automatic.
In goal, Canada has 2010 returnee Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks, Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens and Phoenix Coyotes netminder Mike Smith.
Questions have been raised on who will be named the number one goalie for the tournament, and whether Luongo will even be ready for Sochi, as he has been nursing an ankle injury the past few weeks.
“Although I’m not really a fan of Luongo, he does have a gold medal and brings Olympic experience,” says Trojans goaltender Jacob Edwards.
“If I had it my way I would have left Luongo off the roster and brought Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins instead.”
Luongo is not the only Olympian recovering from an injury.
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos has been out since the middle of October with a broken leg, but over the past few weeks Stamkos has been skating with the team and took part in light contact drills in late January. It looks like he will be healthy in time for the Olympics.
Edmonton native and former Calgary Flame defenseman Jay Bouwmeester was also named to the roster after missing the Olympics in 2010 due to a tumultuous season in 2009-10.
“Bouwmeester brings a great mix of speed and size to the big international ice,” says Drobot.
“He has been solid in St. Louis and he and Alex Pietrangelo have great chemistry, which might make them Canada’s best pairing.”
Though 25 men did make the Canadian roster, a few notable names were left off the team, including forwards Claude Giroux, Martin St. Louis and James Neal, and defencemen Brent Seabrook and Calgary Flame Mark Giordano.
“I personally would have liked to have seen Giroux and St.Louis make this team,” says Drobot. “But it is hard to argue with Steve Yzerman and Mike Babcock.”
NHL superstars have been allowed to represent their countries in the last four Olympic Games, starting in 1998 in Nagano, Japan.
Canada has won gold in two of the past four tournaments, both being won on North American ice.
They have failed to medal in the other two tournaments which were held in Nagano and Turin, Italy. Canada will look to win gold on international ice for the first time in 62 years since winning gold during the 1952 Olympic Games held in Oslo, Norway.
For Canada’s complete Olympic roster, click here.