Hockey Canada selects Dec. 31 to name 2010 Olympic men’s hockey team

Steve Yzerman has made some pretty important plans for New Year’s Eve.

The executive director of Team Canada has selected Dec. 31 as the day he’ll unveil the 23-man roster for the Olympic men’s hockey team. Hockey Canada is still working out details of where the announcement will be made.

Yzerman and his management team have been aggressively scouting NHL games this season, trying to watch Olympic hopefuls play as much as possible. They took in Tuesday’s game between Tampa Bay and Toronto and were scheduled to watch San Jose at Columbus on Wednesday night.

There are eight weeks remaining before the group has to select the 13 forwards, seven defencemen and three goaltenders that will wear the Maple Leaf in Vancouver.

Even after Dec. 31, some changes could be made. Any player that suffers an injury between that date and Feb. 15 is eligible to be replaced. Unlike the 2006 Olympics in Turin, teams will not carry a taxi squad of extra players.

Canada opens the Olympic tournament on Feb. 16 with a game against Norway at Vancouver’s GM Place – dubbed Canada Hockey Place during the Games.

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Forty-six players attended Canada’s Olympic orientation camp in Calgary in August, but Yzerman has said he’s since narrowed down his list.

He’ll have more time to make his final decisions than any of his predecessors. Bobby Clarke selected the 1998 Olympic team on Nov. 29, 1997; Wayne Gretzky picked the 2002 squad on Dec. 15, 2001; and Gretzky named his 2006 team on Dec. 21, 2005.

The 12 countries involved in the Olympic tournament will announce their rosters over a 10-day period starting with Belarus on Dec. 23. It will be followed by Russia (Dec. 25), Sweden (Dec. 27), Latvia (Dec. 29), Norway (Dec. 29), Slovakia (Dec. 29), Czech Republic (Dec. 30), Finland (Dec. 30), Germany (Dec. 30), Switzerland (Dec. 30) and Canada (Dec. 31).

The Americans will be the last country to name their team when they unveil it on Jan. 1 during the telecast of the NHL’s Winter Classic outdoor game in Boston.