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Talking hockey with Yzerman

Friday, 08.21.2009 / 4:21 PM ET / Features
By Dan Rosen  - Senior Writer
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Talking hockey with Yzerman
Steve Yzerman may have the toughest job in Canadian sport right now. As the Executive Director of Canada's National Men's Ice Hockey Team, Yzerman will head the group that will select the 23-man roster for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

While the public part of his evaluation begins Monday in Calgary when 46 players gather for the four-day National Team Orientation Camp, Yzerman has been scouting, analyzing and thinking about the roster since being named to his post on Oct. 7, 2008.

On Friday, Yzerman, who will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November, took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to chat with about the upcoming camp and Olympics: You have 46 of the best players in the world coming together at one venue and ultimately it will be up to you to pick the team that is right for Canada to win gold again? So, naturally, there is pressure. Do you feel more pressure in your current role than you did when you were playing for Canada?

Yzerman: "No, no, no. I think in a lot of ways it's very similar, but as a player you just have your own expectations and your own goals. I think for any real competitive player or anyone that has great aspirations, they put greater demands on themselves and are more satisfied with satisfying their own expectations than anyone else's. We're all part of it and we all have to do our job and do it well. To answer your question, no, I don't feel any more pressure. It's the same really." If you can come out of this camp Thursday night after the Red-White scrimmage saying one thing, what would you like it to be?

Yzerman: "Most important, I want the players to leave that camp Thursday night thinking, 'I totally understand how the coaches want the team to play, I understand the type of game they're going to play and what is expected of me to make the team.' I guess it's to answer every question that they have leading up to the Olympics so when they get to Vancouver in February all their questions have been answered and they can just focus on playing the first game of that tournament." Many people are wondering what the point is behind playing the Red-White scrimmage game Thursday because the fear of injury may outweigh the gain the players, coaches and executives get out of the game. Why is the game going to be played and at any point were there thoughts to cancel it, especially because of the insurance issues?

Yzerman: "I could have called this a practice. It didn't need to be called a Red-White scrimmage. People are making way too much of it. Teams in the NHL and every league scrimmage in practice. It's no different than that. We have 45 guys skating (Ryan Getzlaf is out due to offseason surgery) and we're going to practice for three days and we wanted in more of a game-like situation to get out there and do the things they have been working on for three days. We could have just run another practice to go through our forechecking and backchecking systems and work on the power play and penalty kill, but we thought it would be better to incorporate it more into a game. The intensity level expected and what we're going to be doing is no different than what the players do every single day in practice."
I want the players to leave that camp Thursday night thinking, 'I totally understand how the coaches want the team to play, I understand the type of game they're going to play and what is expected of me to make the team. - Steve Yzerman The assumption is the style Canada will play in these games will closely resemble the style the Red Wings play. Is it wrong to assume that, or is it pretty accurate?

Yzerman: "Well, Mike Babcock coaches the Red Wings and he's going to coach this team so the things he's been successful with his teams, and I mean all the teams he's coached -- he's brought a lot of his ideas from one job to the next and the things he's been successful with he's stuck with -- some will be incorporated into the Olympic team. Not all, but some. You play a certain way based on the personnel you have and we're going to have a strong offensive team and good puck-moving defenseman. We're not molding this after the Detroit Red Wings, but he's going to apply some of the things that made the Detroit Red Wings successful." Of all the players that are coming to camp, is it possible for you to give us a list of five that you are really looking forward to seeing on the ice because it will give you a chance to learn more about them than you already know?

Yzerman: "Probably not. It's a tough one for me to answer. I've watched them all a lot. Some of them I have never met or spoken to before so I don't know if there is just five I can give you. I have shaken hands with Sidney Crosby once, but I don't really know him. Stephane Robidas and I have never met. I have spoken on the phone once or twice to Marc-Andre Fleury, but that's it. Some of the guys I played against, but some of the younger guys I don't know. Being there for me will give me a chance to meet some of the guys I don't know personally yet, but I have watched them play a lot. I would stress that this camp is about information, preparation. It's not about trying out. I'm not looking to study a player and determine if he'll make this team or not make this team based on this camp. It's informative so they are prepared in every way."




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