January 21, 2010
(Ed. Note: No Puck Previews tonight, as we're headed to Arlington for the viewing party. Hope to see some of you there, and we'll be Tweeting about the game. Our Caps/Pens game preview is here; we'll be back with 3 Stars later tonight. Meanwhile, here's a chat between Dmitry and Stevie Y that's a good read. Enjoy.)
Dimitry Shumin caught up with Hockey Hall of Famer and 2010 Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman after the Detroit Red Wings' loss to the Washington Capitals to talk about the Olympics, some hockey controversies and whether he thinks he could come back and play like Slava Fetisov did.
Q. How difficult was it for you to assemble Team Canada? Was it the hardest thing you had to do?
YZERMAN: It was very difficult. In the end, we have a very deep talent pool. We were debating between very, very good players. So, it's a good problem to have. But had some hard decisions to make.
Yes. He is a tremendous player. You know, we named four right defensemen. They are all very good players. We could have gone in different directions. Obviously I am hopeful that we win, and that our decisions were correct.
What were the main criteria for you to assemble the team? The Russians, for example, said the main criteria were speed, puck movement, puck possession ...
Yeah, basically the same things we were looking. Obviously some players play quicker than the others. But we considered guys who can play good both ends of the rink; guys who can play offensively, defensively; guys who compete hard; players with good hockey sense. Then you get into things like speed when comparing one player to another looking for reasons to pick one guy over the other. But I think we have assembled a pretty big team, a pretty skilled team that is very fast.
You obviously saw Team Russia roster. What would you say about it?
It is a tremendous roster. They left off some very good players as well. There are a lot of different directions they could have gone. I have watched Russia beat us at the last two World Championships for the gold medal. I know their team well. I know their players very well. And I think going into this tournament they are probably the favorite team in the Olympics.
What do you think about the rule that you had to come up with team rosters months ahead of the tournament?
That's the way they have set it up and I think we'd all like to be in a position where we could tinker, but that's the way it was set up and that's the way it is. If we have injuries, we're prepared to replace players. And we're fine with that.
What team will be Team Canada's main challenger?
I think Team Russia is the favorite to win the tournament. You mentioned Semin, Datsyuk, Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Malkin, Fedorov. No team can match that top six up front. So, they're the defending two time World Champions. They're the team we will all want to beat.
Have you heard about Slava Fetisov playing a game not long ago?
Yes I did! He is an amazing guy, you know. When he came to Detroit, I think it was in 1996, people were like 'Oh, I don't know if he can play.' But he played for us another 5 years, won two Stanley Cups with us. He is such an intelligent hockey player.
How about Steve Yzerman making a comeback with Detroit?
It was a bad week for the NHL with controversies recently with video replays, one of which involved your team. What do you think is the problem? Do things like that damage hockey's image?
I think throughout the season there are always calls that are controversial. And that's in any sport. Everybody tries to get everything right. Occasionally it goes wrong. I don't think it hurts the integrity of the game. Unfortunately, we were on the wrong side of it this time. But no matter what the system is, no matter how you interpret things or how you set things up, there will always be errors. It's unavoidable. Everybody makes mistakes.
Could you comment on the Burrows incident?
You know what? All I will say is that there are a lot of things that are said on the ice between players, between coaches, between referees that should stay on the ice. That's my opinion. I don't think we should be going directly to the media with things that happen. A lot of things said in the heat of the moment should just stay on the ice.
You played in the NHL for a very long time, played some tough hockey with tough guys. I am sure you have seen the incident in the Quebec Junior league with the hit to the head. What makes players do these types of things? What do you think the league should do to stop it? Do you think there is less respect on the ice nowadays?
I don't think there has ever been any respect. It's always been that way. Guys compete hard. There is a difference between clean hits when a player gets injured and dirty hits. On the dirty ones, or the illegal ones, you have to suspend players and come down hard on them.
But it is a difficult thing because the game is fast, and things are happening very quickly. And a lot of times [after] a clean hit with no malicious intent a player gets hurt. I think you have to be real careful. But it is a physical, violent game that, unfortunately, guys will get hurt playing. But when one player deliberately hurts another player, the league is pretty diligent on handing out tough suspensions. All they have to do is just stick to it.