For some, NHL will serve as tryout for Team USA
By Kevin Allen, USA TODAY
When 39 of America's premium NHL players gather for the U.S. Olympic
orientation camp in Colorado Springs today and Wednesday, what you
see might not be what you get for the Torino Games.
The gathering isn't designed to be a tryout camp, and elite players
who haven't been invited to the camp could still be named to the
"What I'm going to say to the guys on the first day of meeting is
that basically they are going to pick this Olympic team," said Team
USA general manager Don Waddell.
Essentially, Waddell and his assistant, Paul Holmgren, will make
final decisions based on how the players perform in the first three
months of the NHL season. "Certainly there are guys who would have to
play their way off the team and others who have to play their way on
to the team," Waddell said.
Waddell offered no hint as to who might fit those descriptions, but
history would suggest that players such as Doug Weight, who played
superbly at last spring's world championships, would be close to a
lock. Philadelphia Flyers winger Mike Knuble and Carolina Hurricanes
forward Erik Cole played well enough at the worlds that they look
like likely picks for the Olympic team.
New York Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro's strong history in a USA
jersey makes him almost a certainty to make the team.
Meanwhile, young players, such as highly touted forwards Zach Parise,
Ryan Kesler and Dustin Brown, plus defenseman Ryan Suter, will need
to be very impressive in the early going. But Parise and Suter both
played for Team USA at the world championships, and Brown would have
been there had he not had some medical issues.
Some players who weren't invited but are still in the mix include
Brian Leetch, Chris Chelios and Brett Hull, all of whom would be on
the list of all-time greatest American players. Several non-invitees
have been told by Waddell that they will still be considered for the
team. The aging U.S. stars will have to demonstrate they are still at
the top of their game after missing last season because of the
lockout. Chelios, 43, played part of the 2004-05 season for the Motor
City Mechanics in the United Hockey League.
"The nice thing about our team is that our depth is so much better,"
Waddell said. "And our goaltending will be strong."
The orientation camp will be used for team building and experimenting
with lines. Coach Peter Laviolette and assistants Mike Sullivan and
Keith Allain will have a chance to get more familiar with players
they don't know as well.
"This is an important first step to the process," Waddell said.