The Stanley Cup is hockey’s ultimate silver trophy, but the Olympics are all about gold.
And the 2006 edition of the worldwide tournament is starting to feel pretty wide open.
Canada, the defending gold medal champion, is the favorite, but it’s a much different team from the one that went all the way in 2002.
For starters, there’s no Mario Lemieux or Steve Yzerman.
Defensemen Scott Niedermayer and Ed Jovanovski, due to injuries, also have bowed out.
The U.S., too, embraced a new generation of players; more so, even than Canada.
Gone are Mike Richter and Brian Leetch and Jeremy Roenick and John LeClair; in are the likes of Brian Gionta and John-Michael Liles and Erik Cole and Mike Knuble.
Here’s a quick peak at possible best results, worst results and probable results for hockey’s ‘Big 7’ nations:
Best result: No injuries, no surprises, no goals against.
Worst result: Injuries, surprises, goals against.
Probable result: Another gold medalÂ…or four years of the blame game. Really, there are no other options.
Best result: ShootoutsÂ…so many shootouts.
Worst result: The names Â“JagrÂ” or Â“HasekÂ” appear in the same sentence as Â“groin injuryÂ”.
Probable result: Win their final game in a nail-biter. But is it for goldÂ…or bronze?
Best result: Peter Forsberg on the ice, not in the stands.
Worst result: Tommy Salo makes an emergency appearance.
Probable result: Beat Canada early, lose out in medal rounds late.
Best result: A harmonious dressing room – until the gold medal celebrations.
Worst result: A return to Cold War rhetoric. (Granted, this is a long shot.)
Probable result: Domination, or ruination. You knowÂ…the usual.
Best result: One more run at glory for the old guard of Modano, Weight, Tkachuk and Guerin.
Worst result: A hotel room, a fire extinguisher and unresolved childhood issues.
Probable result: A last-minute invitation to Jim Craig.
Best result: The bronze medal.
Worst result: Third place.
Probable result: Somewhere between second and fourth.
Best result: For the so-called Â“seventh-bestÂ” team of hockey’s Big 7, a medal of any color would be monumental.
Worst result: Eighth place.
Probable result: An upset win, maybe two, before being undone by defense and goaltending.
No whammies, no whammies!
Would Wayne Gretzky lie? That was the salacious question of the week as Gretzky was forced to deny his involvement in the gambling ring that was allegedly financed by Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach Rick Tocchet.
While Gretzky’s word remains as good as gold in this little cyber-corner of the hockey world – it’s impossible to think he’d jeopardize any of his lifelong legacy, just to make a few bucks – that’s not to say we’re naÃ¯ve enough to believe Gretzky has never lied.
In fact, he fessed up to lying to the public in the 1995 book he did with Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly, Gretzky: An Autobiography. The fib happened during that tumultuous period in the summer of 1988 when he was traded from Edmonton to Los Angeles. Gretzky said, at one point, he out-and-out lied to newspaper reporters to keep them off the track.
And, earlier in the book, he said he swore a blue streak on the ice, at least when he was a young player in the NHL.
So, no, he’s not perfect. Never was, despite what the headlines indicated.
But, did Wayne Gretzky bet on NHL hockey games? Or even, games involving his own team, the Coyotes?
He says he didn’t.
And that’s enough for me.
Montreal Canadiens goalie Jose Theodore weighs maybe 175 pounds and is enduring his worst NHL season in memory.
Whatever he’s on, it ain’t steroids.