VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Hockey Canada executive director Steve Yzerman held court at a news conference Saturday, ahead of the players' arrival for the Winter Games.
He said it would be a mistake for the NHL to pull out of the Olympics after this tournament, and offered some candid (and perhaps controversial) thoughts on Ryan Getzlaf's injury status, the Canada-Russia rivalry and Sidney Crosby's maturation as an NHL player – to the point where he reminds Yzerman of Michael Jordan.
• Yzerman on Getzlaf's injury, which could keep him out of the Olympics: He skated lightly Saturday morning ahead of the Anaheim Ducks' game at the Calgary Flames, but Yzerman said he was out for that game. Getzlaf was to skate again Sunday.
Yzerman said there would be no decision on Getzlaf's status Saturday, but that his situation would be re-evaluated after he skated Sunday. Later, he said that Getzlaf's ankle injury was a tricky one with a high percentage of recurrence.
The vibe is that they would obviously prefer Getzlaf on this team – thinking specifically about the dynamic chemistry he has with Corey Perry – but that the clock might run out here, necessitating the addition of Philadelphia Flyer Jeff Carter to the roster.
Yzerman said there were no other injury concerns for Team Canada.
• Yzerman was asked about his familiarity with Sidney Crosby's game after the Pittsburgh Penguins met Yzerman's Detroit Red Wings in the last two Stanley Cup finals. His answer was quite complimentary:
"His game has evolved in every year. He's a complete player, much like Michael Jordan in basketball. Every year they tried to fine something wrong with his game, and he just kept getting better and better," said Yzerman.
"You could say he's our top player, and that's no overstating it."
• Finally, Slava Malamud of Sport-Express asked a provocative question about how Russia had supplanted Canada as the top team in international play over the last few world championships, and how it might be the last chance for Canada's NHL stars to win gold. How enormous is that pressure right now?
Yzerman, getting closer to the microphone, offered a terse response:
"Honestly, do you think they'll have a parade in Moscow if the Russians go in with the silver medal? They won't."
Yzerman continued: "The expectation in Russia is gold. The expectation in Sweden is gold. Whether they admit it or not, the USA is in this to win a gold medal. All of us are playing to win the tournament, and every team that doesn't will be disappointed. That's how it is for all our players that play in the NHL every year. If you don't win, it hasn't been successful.
"We just don't treat it [the way the question was stated]. You point out Russians have won the last two championships. They're bringing some of the top forwards in the world [here]. They're the No. 1 ranked team in the world. They're the favorite coming into this tournament."
Tense, theatrical moment right there, with journalist and team executive taking partisan stances on the most desired matchup in the tournament.