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Canada's Men's Olympic Ice Hockey Team executive director Steve Yzerman speaks at a news conference in Toronto January 7, 2014. Hockey Canada revealed the roster for the men's ice hockey team it will send to the Sochi Winter Olympics to defend the gold medal won on Sidney Crosby's golden goal four years ago in Vancouver. (AARON HARRIS/REUTERS)
Canada's Men's Olympic Ice Hockey Team executive director Steve Yzerman speaks at a news conference in Toronto January 7, 2014. Hockey Canada revealed the roster for the men's ice hockey team it will send to the Sochi Winter Olympics to defend the gold medal won on Sidney Crosby's golden goal four years ago in Vancouver. (AARON HARRIS/REUTERS)

Q&A with executive director of Canada’s Olympic hockey team Steve Yzerman Add to ...

Steve Yzerman, executive director of Canada’s 2014 men’s Olympic hockey team, addressed a number of issues relating to the selection process, including how the decisions over a number of players were made. Some highlights:

On the need to keep a number of players who failed to qualify for the roster on standby in case there are injuries between now and the time the Olympics begin:

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“There are a few players I called [Tuesday] morning and one of those reasons was to let them know that they’re in consideration in the event of injury – and also to point out to them to be careful because they are still subject to drug testing. We had a long list that we had to submit to the [Canadian Olympic Committee] and, really, any of those players are eligible to play still. There’s a small group that were in the final discussion that would be the first choices today, but two weeks from now, if a player wasn’t in that discussion was playing extremely well, he’ll get into the discussion. Ultimately, over the next five weeks, if we have to replace a guy, it’s wide open – and we’re going to take the best one.”

On Canadian gold-medal game-winning goal-scorer Sidney Crosby and how his game has evolved over the past four years:

“Playing in the Olympics in Vancouver [in 2010] was a tremendous experience for him. There was so much pressure on him, more than maybe anybody in the entire Canadian Olympic program, and he scored the winning goal. Four years later, he’s going to be a little more comfortable – and he’s a little bit older, too. There, he was one of the younger guys. You’re looking up at all these guys, including Sid, are respectful to the [older] players in the locker room. Now, he’s kind of in – he’s played with these guys, he’s been around them a lot more. He’ll be much more comfortable. Every young player, with age, grows more comfortably into a leader – and we see him that way this time. I think he’s going to be tremendous in the Olympics. Four years later, four years older, I think he’s going to really enjoy himself and play extremely well.”

On the decision to name Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins linemate Chris Kunitz to the team:

“We went back to last season, when Sid was out of the lineup, [Kunitz] played well. We like what he brings. In talking with the coaches, we did not necessarily ask, ‘Who is he going to play with?’ because that could change. Chris Kunitz could play one shift with Sidney and then [Canada head coach Mike Babcock] decides on something else. So we had to discuss ‘Okay, if he’s not on Crosby’s line, then where does he play?’ What we see is he has been on championship teams, he plays hard and he’s one of the top players around the net, whether it be 5-on-5, or on the power play. We like the tenacity that he brings – and the straight up-and-down play. He’s a great fore-checker. Regardless of who he plays with, he’s going to get in and turn pucks over and drive to the net and do all the little things that complement the more finesse-type guys.”

On his decision to select Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens), Roberto Luongo (Vancouver Canucks) and Mike Smith (Phoenix Coyotes) as his trio of goaltenders:

“I’ve watched not only these three, but a couple of other Canadian goaltenders are having very good years. I’ll start with Roberto Luongo: If you watched the game he played in [Los Angeles] the other night – and that wasn’t any determining factor in our decision – but that’s as good as I’ve seen Roberto play. He looked outstanding. He’s had a very good year. He’s been through a lot and he’s persevered and he’s come through it and I think that makes him a better goalie than he was four years ago. Carey Price has had an outstanding season. I’ve witnessed it in two games firsthand versus Tampa. He’s played numerous outstanding games for his team. He’s really elevated his game this year. And Mike Smith continues out in Phoenix, he logs a lot of minutes, he faces a lot of shots and he’s won a lot of games this year. So we’re very pleased and very comfortable with our goaltending.”

On whether size was a factor in the selection process, considering so many of the players chosen (Jeff Carter, Rick Nash, Patrick Marleau) had good size and a couple who were overlooked (Martin St. Louis, Claude Giroux) don’t:

“We didn’t talk about size much; in fact, I don’t know if we talked about it at all because it’s a pretty big group anyways. Speed was an important factor. Then, we just looked at our team, we have a lot of players in their natural positions and a lot of choices in all three forward positions, playing their natural position. Were we prepared to move a player from his natural position to bump a player from a natural position? Ultimately, we decided [no].”

On if the team has already designated who among the list of 25 are the extras:

“It’s difficult to designate at this time a guy as the 14th forward or the eighth defenceman in that if we do get an injury, that could change. At some point, we’ll address that issue. Right now, we don’t know who that player is going to be, so let’s see until we get closer to the Games, if we’re replacing players or not. [Babcock], I know going back to 2010, but at one point in the process, I know he talked to at least one forward and said, ‘Look, this is where you’re starting, so be prepared for it.’ We’ll probably have some type of conversation like that with players, but whether it’s tomorrow or the day before the first game, I’m not sure yet.”

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