CALGARY – It was a bittersweet day for the Calgary Flames on Wednesday as three players found out they’ll play for their respective countries at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver while three others didn’t get to hear their names called.
As expected, Flames captain Jarome Iginla cracked Team Canada’s roster while forward Olli Jokinen and goalie Miikka Kiprusoff were named to the Finnish roster.
But three members of the Flames’ defence corps will be on the outside looking in as Jay Bouwmeester, Dion Phaneuf and Robyn Regehr were all left off Steve Yzerman’s Canadian roster.
“I’m very excited about it and looking forward to it, but also I definitely feel for our D-men who are very capable,” Iginla told a throng of reporters in the Flames dressing room shortly after the announcement. “I get to see them every day and see how good they are and know that they easily could have been there too. It’s mixed emotions because I’m very excited but also disappointed for them and would have loved to be on Team Canada with all three of them.”
While Jokinen was pleased to make the cut, he had hoped to be lining up against Bouwmeester, Phaneuf and Regehr in Vancouver.
“You feel for those guys,” Jokinen said, while speculating the trio might have received better news had the Flames played better leading up to the announcement. “As a teammate, you feel like you’ve let your teammate down because we didn’t play at the level what we’re capable to play as a team. It’s disappointing.”
Calgary coach Brent Sutter empathized with the decisions that Yzerman, Team Canada’s executive director, and his staff had to make to get down to the final 23 players.
“There’s never easy decisions to make,” Sutter said. “The guys on our team here that didn’t get named today, they’re still very top-end players. I’m sure they’re somewhat disappointed and rightly so, but you move on. Like I told them before, whether they’re named to the team or not, I was proud of all of them. They’re elite athletes in this profession and their play has proven that.”
Iginla and Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo were the only players from Canadian NHL teams to make the cut. Mike Fisher of the Ottawa Senators was also in the mix but wasn’t on the final list while Mike Cammalleri in Montreal was considered a longshot.
Team Canada associate director Kevin Lowe said that much debate went into the final selection and that all three Calgary blue-liners were strong candidates.
“I would say without tipping our hand in terms of overall selection, we were looking for puck movement, we were looking for some size, but we were also looking for reliability,” Lowe said. “There was a lot of debate. I would say those guys are in the top 11 or 12, but at the end of the day we decided to go with the seven we did.”
Nobody on Pat Quinn’s Edmonton Oilers made the squad but as a former Olympic team coach, he understood how difficult the decisions were for the Canadian management team.
“There’s certainly some guys left off we might think should be there, but I think it’s a very good team that they’ve picked, no question about that,” Quinn said in Edmonton.
After finding out he didn’t make the team, Phaneuf quickly turned his attentions back to helping the Flames, who are in an intense battle with the Colorado Avalanche and Canucks for top spot in the Northwest Division.
“It would have been a great honour to play for that team,” Phaneuf said. “I’m disappointed but now I have to move forward and focus on having a good second half here with our team. To be honest with you, I’m focused on our team here right now and doing whatever it takes here to win hockey games.”
Bouwmeester also expressed his disappointment, but added he doesn’t have much time to dwell on it with Calgary’s busy schedule.
“It’s one of those things where you would like to be there, but the reality was there was a lot of guys they had to pick. It’s just the way it is,” Bouwmeester said. “It doesn’t really change a whole lot how you go out and play. We have a job here to do as a team here in Calgary and that’s the main focus every night.”
While Phaneuf, Bouwmeester and Regehr didn’t make the cut, 20-year-old defenceman Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings – Calgary’s opponent at the Pengrowth Saddledome on Wednesday night – earned a spot on the Canadian roster.
“I’m sure everyone at the orientation camp (held last August in Calgary) would love to be on the team,” said Doughty following the pre-game skate. “I think they’d do anything in the world to be named to this Olympic team. Some of them are great players and guys that I actually thought would have been on the team. I guess I feel for them a bit, but I definitely would rather be in my position.”
-With files from Robin Brownlee in Edmonton