SASKATOON, Saskatchewan (Reuters) - Sidney Crosby was among 15 Olympic newcomers on a 23-man squad named by Hockey Canada on Wednesday to carry the weight of the host nation’s gold medal dreams at the 2010 Winter Games.
Pittsburgh Penguins forward Crosby, controversially left out four years ago, was one of the certainties this time in a squad announcement that brought workplaces to a halt when it was made live on 13 television networks in hockey-mad Canada.
Anaheim Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer, a member of the 2002 winning team, was named captain for Vancouver 2010.
He will anchor a defense that includes four players seeing their first Olympic action -- Chicago Blackhawks team mates Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, Nashville Predators’ Shea Weber and 20-year-old Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings.
New Jersey Devils’ record-breaking goaltender Martin Brodeur, in net when Canada ended a 50-year gold medal drought at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, was also named on a squad that will face monstrous pressure to win on home ice.
No medal other than gold will satisfy Canadians, who have spent the last year arguing over who should wear the Maple Leaf in what is being hyped as the greatest hockey event of all-time.
”Certainly there is pressure,“ Crosby told reporters after learning of his selection. ”That is also why you love to play the game and those are the challenges you look forward to.
“You are talking about representing Canada and being a hockey player in a sport that is so important in Canada and having the Games in Canada so I feel pretty lucky to have that opportunity.”
Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman, a Hockey Hall of Famer and another member of the 2002 gold medal team, will face the same intense scrutiny and second-guessing for his picks as Wayne Gretzky did when he was charged with assembling Canada’s 2002 and 2006 Olympics squads.
Gretzky was hailed a genius after Canada won gold in Salt Lake but the Great One lost some of his aura after the the country failed to reach the medal round in Turin in 2006.
Much of that controversy surrounded Gretzky’s decision to leave young phenomenon Crosby off the team.
Four years later it is one selection that will not be debated, Crosby having cemented his status as one of the NHL’s top talents taking league MVP honors in 2007 and leading the Penguins to the Stanley Cup last season.
At the other end of the age spectrum, the 37-year-old netminder Brodeur, who holds the record for most career wins and shutouts, should be handed the starting assignment by coach Mike Babcock.
Goaltenders: Martin Brodeur (New Jersey Devils), Roberto Luongo (Vancouver Canucks), Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh Penguins)
Defensemen: Scott Niedermayer (Anaheim Ducks), Chris Pronger (Philadelphia Flyers), Dan Boyle (San Jose Sharks), Drew Doughty (Los Angeles Kings), Duncan Keith (Chicago Blackhawks), Brent Seabrook (Chicago Blackhawks), Shea Weber (Nashville Predators)
Forwards: Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins), Jarome Iginla (Calgary Flames), Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks), Dany Heatley (San Jose Sharks), Patrick Marleau (San Jose Sharks), Brenden Morrow (Dallas Stars), Rick Nash (Columbus Blue Jackets), Mike Richards (Philadelphia Flyers), Corey Perry (Anaheim Ducks), Eric Staal (Carolina Hurricanes), Joe Thornton (San Jose Sharks), Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks)
Writing by Steve Keating in Boston, editing by Tony Jimenez/Kevin Fylan. To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org