Canadian-born Pominville to play for Team USA at World Championship

Canada and USA haven’t fought over a piece of land since the War of 1812, but almost 200 years later, the United States has managed to lay claim to Pominville.

It became official Wednesday when Buffalo Sabres right winger Jason Pominville, who was born in Montreal and played all his minor hockey in Canada, was announced to the roster of the U.S. team for the upcoming World Championship. Officials in both countries were stunned to learn recently that Pominville has always had a dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship and he could have played for either the Canadian or the American team because he had never represented either country in an International Ice Hockey Federation sanctioned event.

The news wasn’t as good for the Americans on a couple of other fronts though. Sabres goalie Ryan Miller declined an invitation to play in the tournament and St. Louis Blues rookie Erik Johnson had to decline in order to have surgery to repair cartilage damage in his shoulder. Los Angeles Kings rookie Jack Johnson, who finished the season on the injury list with a broken foot, might be able to play in the tournament and USA Hockey is waiting for the results of an MRI before they move forward.

Pominville, meanwhile, was invited to the tryout camp for the Canadian World Junior team for the 2002 tournament, but was cut from the final roster.

“Not too many people knew about it and I think that’s why it caught everybody off guard a little bit,” said the 25-year-old right winger who registered 53 assists this season. “It’s something I thought about for a long time. I’m sure there will be mixed opinions. I respect Hockey Canada and I respect Steve Yzerman, but I have a right to do this.”

Pominville’s mother Deborah is originally from Green Bay, Wisconsin, and met Jason’s father Jean-Marie when Jean-Marie was playing minor pro hockey in the United States League for the Green Bay Bobcats in the 1970s. The couple married and moved to Montreal where Pominville grew up, but maintained a dual citizenship. By playing for the U.S. in this tournament, Pominville will be eligible to play only for the U.S. in international hockey for the remainder of his career.

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Pominville said he wasn’t even sure of the rules regarding his eligibility for international play until recently and once he found out he was eligible for the U.S. team, his agent Normand Dupont called USA Hockey to notify them Pominville would be interested in playing in the American program.

Pominville was one of 17 players named to the team Wednesday, along with teammates Drew Stafford and Paul Gaustad.

Keith Ballard, Tom Gilbert, Matt Greene and James Wisniewski were named at defense and David Backes, David Booth, Dustin Brown, Dustin Byfuglien, Jeff Halpern, Patrick Kane, Peter Mueller, Patrick O’Sullivan and Lee Stempniak were also named at forward.

Of the first 17 players named, all but Halpern are under 30 years old. The remainder of the roster will be filled out after the first round of the playoffs.

The Americans will be a young team to be sure, but coach John Tortorella said it’s all part of a changing philosophy at USA Hockey.

“It used to be guys would mix a little hockey in while you’re out there vacationing,” Tortorella said. “I think it needs to be the other way around. Let’s go try to win.”

So where exactly is Pominville? Apparently, it’s along Route 5 in western New York. That’s the name of a restaurant in Hamburg that named a section of the establishment Pominville.

“I guess people call in and make reservations for Pominville,” Pominville said.