News

Modano, Rafalski among 34 invited to U.S. Olympic hockey camp

The Canadian Press
By:
The Hockey News
News

Modano, Rafalski among 34 invited to U.S. Olympic hockey camp

The Canadian Press
By:

What team boss Brian Burke calls the "warriors" who have played nearly every big international hockey event for the United States in the last 15 years looks to have been disbanded, except for one - Mike Modano.

The 39-year-old Modano was among 34 players invited by USA Hockey on Tuesday to its Olympic team orientation camp Aug. 17-19 in Woodridge, Ill., near Chicago.

It is a first step toward making the American team that will play at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

Modano has played at the last three Winter Games, but at that time the Dallas Stars centre was an offensive star on his way to becoming the highest-scoring American born player in NHL history. Now, he has a shot at going to the Olympics in more of a checking role.

"If you look at the evolution of the Dallas hockey club, Mike Modano's been asked to accept an increasingly defensive role," said Burke, the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager who is also GM of Team USA. "His production has fallen off, but his usefulness as a player has not.

"His role has changed and he's accepted that cheerfully. He's still an effective hockey player even though he's not putting up the numbers that he once did."

The Canadian Olympic team has a similar camp scheduled for Aug. 24-28 in Calgary.

The invitees were identified by a seven-member committee, including Burke, who rated players through the NHL season.

Those not even invited to the U.S. camp include long-time national team stalwarts who are still active like Keith Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick and Bill Guerin. They and now-retired stars like Brian Leetch, Brett Hull and Mike Richter formed the core of Olympic and World Cup teams back well into the 1990s.

"I tried to reach a lot of the older players who have not been invited, including some household names," added Burke. "We've got a group of warriors who have represented our country extremely well for 15 years."

Modano will have plenty of youth around him at the U.S. camp.

The notable forwards on the list of invitees include youngsters Zach Parise, Patrick Kane, Paul Stastny, Bobby Ryan, Phil Kessel and Dustin Brown, as well as some veterans like Chris Drury, Scott Gomez and Jamie Langenbrunner.

The defence is led by veteran Brian Rafalski, and also includes both Erik and Jack Johnson, Tom Gilbert, Mike Komisarek and both Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi of the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

Only three goalies were invited - Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins, Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres and 23-year-old Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings.

Burke said as many as 50 others will be asked to participate in a pre-Olympic anti-doping program, which makes them eligible to be added to the team.

The final roster will be announced near the end of the year and "we'll wait till the latest day possible to name our 23-man team.

"If we did our job, the entire team will come out of this camp, but my suspicion is that, knowing how competitive our athletes are, that's not going to be the case. Some of these guys not invited are going to try to jam that right down my throat and I welcome that."

Not invited was New York islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro, although Burke said he is not likely to be recovered from his injuries in time for the Games.

The camp is not a try-out for the team, he insisted. There will be no scrimmages or tests, but the coaching staff led by the Leafs' Ron Wilson will lay out the system they will play and the management will work on team building.

The management team consulted some of what Burke called "core" players who are locks to make the team in advance when planning the camp.

Among them was Kane, the gifted forward for the Chicago Blackhawks who was drafted first overall in 2007 - 19 years after Modano was the No. 1 pick.

"It's exciting times, hearing an announcement like this and knowing you're part of the group that may be playing in the Olympics, especially growing up in the U.S. and watching different U.S. teams playing in tournaments," Kane said on a conference call.

The list of three goalies, 12 defencemen and 19 forwards has only five players with Olympic experience, including three from the team that won silver in Lake Placid in 2002 - Modano, Drury and Rafalski. Modano also played at the 1998 and 2006 Games. Gomez was a member of the 2006 team while Langenbrunner played in 1998.

Burke said that with the Olympic tournament being played on an NHL-size ice surface, skill level is not the only criteria for selection to the team, which will also need some bigger players and checkers.

"We tried to identify people who can perform certain tasks," he added. "I think we've got a good blend. We've got some first violins and we've got some tuba players too, so we're happy with the group."

On paper, it is not a group that is likely to challenge Canada, Russia or Sweden for gold, but Burke warned against counting his team out.

"We're going to be an underdog in Vancouver, we know that," he said. "There's not going to be a penny bet on us in Las Vegas, we know that.

"We will probably be the youngest team in the tournament, we know that. But we are going there to win and we tried to identify a group that will give us our best chance to do that."

Comments
Share X
News

Modano, Rafalski among 34 invited to U.S. Olympic hockey camp