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Who will be the new Captain Canada?
It’s hard to predict who will become Captain Canada, when Canada hasn’t even picked a team.But who will lead Canada’s men’s hockey team into battle at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics will spark more debate than who will be the hockey mad country’s next Prime Minister.
With 46 of Canada’s best taking part in last week’s national team orientation camp you could not swing a hockey stick without hitting a worthy candidate.
There were captains of 11 NHL teams in Calgary but only one man will be called forward to try and lead Canada to the gold medal the host country covets more than any other.
Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Phil Esposito and others have worn the Captain’s C above the Maple Leaf into international battle and sometime before Canada’s opening faceoff on February 16 against Norway another name will claim that singular honour.
Phoenix Coyotes’ Shane Doan has assumed the role of Captain Canada at recent world championships and possesses the blue collar, get-the-job-done approach fans admire and team mates respect.
Los Angeles Kings’ Ryan Smyth also regularly answered the call when others wouldn’t, playing in seven consecutive world championships and for many years was “Captain Canada”.
But neither Doan or Smyth are locks to make the 2010 Olympic squad.
It is likely the captain will be one of three players, Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby, Anaheim Ducks’ Scott Niedermeyer or Calgary Flames’ Jarome Iginla.
Niedermayer, a smooth-skating, puck moving defenceman with an Olympic gold medal, Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP appears the early favourite with coach Mike Babcock hinting at a preference for veteran leadership.
Iginla, a tough, fearless competitor with a sniper’s touch, commands respect but the obvious choice to most Canadians is Crosby, the 22-year-old phenomenon from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia who is already the face of the NHL.
One way or another, this team in Vancouver will be Crosby’s, even if the management and coaching staff appear reluctant to burden their number one playmaker with the added responsibility of being captain.
Team Canada’s caution appears unfounded considering that Crosby has been in the media spotlight since he was playing midget hockey and spent the last two seasons in the Stanley Cup pressure cooker where he thrived under the scrutiny leading his team to the title last year.
No player in the NHL competes with as much passion and determination as Crosby, two qualities that will be needed in abundance if Canada is to deliver the gold medal demanded.
PHOTO: Shane Doan (number 19) of the Red team collides with Drew Doughty of the White team during their exhibition game at Team Canada’s Olympic hockey training camp in Calgary, August 27, 2009. REUTERS/Todd Korol