By Ryan Laverty
After watching this weekend’s NHL All-Star game and listening to all the know-it-all hockey analysts, I got to thinking. Without a doubt Canada is the only country in the world already getting worked up over the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. The only topic of discussion seemed to be who would lace ’em up for the old rouge-et-blanc, but quite frankly, what does it matter? You can just about count on them choking once again. We haven’t been able to formulate a winning combination in nearly six years, losing in Nagano, and worse, losing the World Cup to the United States.
Now granted, his royal Wayne-ness has never been part of the Canadian Hockey executive until this year, and if anyone can turn a floundering program around it would be Gretz. But unfortunately, when I look at the premier Canadians around the NHL, I seem to notice one thing; age. I’ve grown up watching the likes of Steve Yzerman, Ray Bourque and Theo Fleury, so how is it that these guys are still our best hopes for a medal in Utah? I mean no disrespect, but I look at some of the lineups formulated in Russia and Sweden and I don’t see names like Igor Larionov or Borje Salming cracking the roster. The players that will make up the competition are young, enthusiastic guys like Pavel Bure and Markus Naslund. I realize there are some exceptions to the rule–like future superstar Simon Gagne–but for the most part our team could easily double for the cast of thirty-something.
There is a lot to be said for age and experience. It’s been said countless times before (usually by Hockey Canada) that veteran leadership and maturity is preferable to boisterous, uncontrolled youth. But I can see that most of the team we send to these games will be comprised of the same core of players. There will be some old, er, new faces like Mario Lemeiux and Gagne, but it’s essentially going to be the same bunch of guys who couldn’t get it done last time. If we are concentrating on veterans, maybe we should see if Gordie Howe still has his skates lying around. He might be interested in an all-expenses-paid trip to Utah.
Don’t get me wrong. I would take any one of our Canadian guys, old or young, over any Swede or Russkie. But the fact is our superstars are a depleting resource. There is a desperate need for an emergence of young Canadians to accept the torch as our hockey heroes leave the game in the next few years. Who will it be? Will it be someone already in the league like Manny Maholtra or Brad Stuart? Will it be the new wave of draft picks, someone like Jason Spezza or Jay Bouwmeister? I only hope it won’t take much longer than that, because we can’t wait for that eight-year-old to develop into the next Canadian phenom.