Gold medal game hero Sidney Crosby, as well as Chicago Blackhawk stars Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews, have been invited to Canada’s Olympic hockey summer tryout camp next month. Crosby, who scored the game winner in overtime as Canada beat the US 3-2 to claim gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, will try to lead Canada to another gold at next year’s Sochi Games in Russia.
“I have never been to Russia,” Crosby said in a conference call last week. “The opportunity to play hockey in Russia is pretty special. With Canada, there are so many guys who could play for that team.”
Canada also announced on Monday that the Detroit Red Wings’ Mike Babcock would return as head coach of the Olympic team, along with Detroit general manager Ken Holland, who will be part of the management team.
St Louis’ Ken Hitchcock, Boston’s Claude Julien and Dallas’ Lindy Ruff have been tabbed as the assistant coaches.
“I am extremely proud to represent my country and coach Team Canada,” Babcock said on Monday. “To win gold in Canada was a dream come true. In February, we will have a whole set of new challenges with a new group of players and staff.”
There are 15 players from the 2010 gold medal team who have been asked back to try out for the Sochi team.
Forward Toews and defenseman Keith won the NHL championship last month with the Blackhawks who beat the Boston Bruins 4-2 in the finals.
Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford, defenseman Brent Seabrook and forward Patrick Sharp are also part of the 47 players invited to the “orientation” camp set for Aug. 25 to Aug. 27 in Calgary.
Toews and Keith led the Blackhawks in assists (11 each) during their playoff run, which lasted 23 games.
Boston had three players invited, including forward Patrice Bergeron, who spent several days in hospital after playing Game 6 with a string of injuries. Bergeron skated Game 6, despite the injuries that comprised a broken rib, torn rib cartilage, separated shoulder and a punctured lung that ended up collapsing once he got to hospital.
Canada’s biggest strength in Sochi will be their defense, which will be anchored by Keith and Nashville Predators captain Shea Webber. An explosive offense will be sparked by the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Crosby, New York Islanders’ John Tavares, Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steve Stamkos, Philadelphia Flyers’ Claude Giroux and Edmonton Oilers’ Taylor Hall.
Some talented players were left off the initial tryout roster, including Phoenix’s Shane Doan, Ottawa’s Jason Spezza, Chicago’s playoff star Bryan Bickell and Boston forward Nathan Horton.
The 36-year-old Jerome Iginla, who set up Crosby for the overtime winner in Vancouver, was also not invited.
The wild card for Canada will be in goal, where there is no clear cut favorite for the starting role.
Of the five who received invites, Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo is the only returning goaltender from the gold medal team, but he struggled at times in 2010, when the only thing saving him was the superb defense in front of him.
It is doubtful Canada would risk going with Luongo as the starter again, which leaves the spot open for Montreal’s Carey Price or Chicago’s Crawford to battle for.
Next year’s Winter Olympics are set for Feb. 7 to Feb. 23.