January 04, 2010
Team USA chief executive Brian Burke was asked today during an Olympic conference call if he saw his team as an underdog in the Vancouver Games hockey tournament.
"We are underdogs," he said, the words hanging in the air for a moment before Burke provided the punctuation.
"If you went to Vegas before this tournament, there isn't going to be a penny bet on us. Everyone's going to be betting on and talking about Canada and Russia. And to a lesser extent, Sweden. We're not manufacturing underdog status -- that's what we are. We're going to be the youngest, and maybe the smallest team in the field, and that's fine with us. As I said to the players: No bold predictions. No bulletin board stuff. We are going there to win."
The man's good for a quote. On that, there can be no debate.
A few notes from today's conference call featuring Burke, head coach Ron Wilson, USA Hockey Executive Director Dave Ogrean, Ryan Miller(notes) of the Buffalo Sabres and Zach Parise(notes) of the New Jersey Devils -- including hints about line combos, the philosophy in building the team and whether any of the Americans could play for Team Canada.
• "Leadership is critical" was the mantra from Burke, who said this roster was compiled with "Type A" players. They erred on the side of players who have served as captains or alternate captains on their teams or internationally. "In my mind, we've got several guys that are captains of their teams. I think we have leadership," he said.
• Craig Custance of The Sporting News asked a question you don't often hear on a conference call, in the sense that it was provocative and received an equally provocative answer. He asked Parise if he had heard a Canadian publication's claim that he was the only Team USA player good enough for Team Canada consideration. (Somewhere, Phil Kessel(notes) weeps.)
Parise defended his teammates, but it was Brian Burke with the great one-liner: "Make sure you send me that article so I can put it up in our dressing room.
• Burke on the Russian hockey team's contention that they can change their roster at any point before Feb. 15, even without an injury: "Our understanding is that we can not change that roster except for a player who can not play due to injury." He said that the U.S. is bound by agreements to the IIHF, the USOC and the NHLPA to keep their roster intact.
"I don't care what the Russians do or say," he said. "We've given our word to these players that they're on the team, and goddamn it they're going."
• Wilson also said that Parise will likely be on a line with Paul Stastny(notes) of the Colorado Avalanche. Does that mean we'll be seeing a Parise-Stastny-Kane like or a Parise-Stastny-Kessel line? Not that they'd have to change the monograms on towels in either case, mind you
• Burke's philosophy for building the blue line: "We tried to identify people that consistently contribute at high levels and in big minutes for out top four, and the round it out with guys who can chew up minutes in other situations -- specifically shorthanded and four-on-four."
He also said he was overruled by the Team USA brain-trust in asking for eight defensemen on the roster, settling for seven.
• Finally, Wilson indicated that gold medal-winning teams typically only roll with one goalie in the tournament. So guess we'll see all three for Team USA in 2010 (d'oh!)...