Iginla predicting gold for Team Canada

 

You can add Jarome Iginla to the list of athletes who figure Team Canada’s hockey team will be golden in 2010.

 
 
 
 
 

ANAHEIM, Calif. — You can add Jarome Iginla to the list of athletes who figure Team Canada’s hockey team will be golden in 2010.

The Calgary Flames captain took a (brief) break Wednesday from the grind of the NHL season to predict Canada will hit the top of the podium in Vancouver.

“Absolutely,” Iginla said, before boarding the team bus after the morning skate at Anaheim’s Honda Center. “I do believe.”

Canada has never won Olympic gold, in any sport, on home soil or snow. The first athlete — or team — to sing O Canada from the top of the podium next year will no doubt enjoy hero status all the way from Cape Spear, N.L., to the 141st meridian along the Yukon-Alaska boundary.

Should Canada win gold in men’s hockey, Prime Minister Stephen Harper might want to declare Feb. 28 a national holiday.

After all, Canadians are still coping with an international hockey hangover dating to the disaster that was the Turin Olympics.

Canada failed to qualify for the medal round in 2006. Sweden won gold over Finland and the Czech Republic captured bronze that year.

“I believe Canadian hockey can do it,” Iginla said. “I think it’s a great program. It’s got a real shot.

“The guys will be definitely be putting pressure on themselves — whoever is there.”

Iginla, 31, is widely considered a favourite to captain the Canadian team in what would be his third Olympic appearance. But the rugged St. Albert, Alta., product took pains Wednesday to emphasize he must convince executive director Steve Yzerman that he belongs on the team.

“Canada has got so many players to choose from,” said Iginla, who had 20 goals and 38 assists for 58 points in 53 games prior to Wednesday night’s game against the Anaheim Ducks. “It’s very deep, and it’s an honour to play for the team.

“You know they have so many tough, tight decisions.”

Iginla is one of three Flames considered legitimate contenders to represent Canada in Vancouver along with defencemen Robyn Regehr, of Rosthern, Sask, and Dion Phaneuf, of Edmonton.

Iginla was asked whether Michael Cammalleri, of Richmond Hill, Ont., should be in the mix. After all, the pint-sized Calgary winger is on pace to score 43 goals this season.

“I have no idea,” Iginla said. “I honestly don’t. I think he’s definitely playing great, and I could totally see him being there. I hope to be there myself. But truly, I have no idea. They have so many guys to choose from.

“I hope there’s a group of guys that could be at that camp from our team. But I literally have no idea, and I imagine other teams feel the same way about their guys.”

And besides, the guys have more pressing matters at hand, like the chase for the Stanley Cup, said Mike Keenan.

“They’re not even thinking about it right now,” said the Flames head coach. “There are so many games to be played for the remainder of this season that will decide the future of many franchises. It’s something I’m sure they’re not even thinking about.

“There are so many qualified players for the different countries involved. It will be a focal point of next season’s play.”

Iginla figures the hype will ramp up just prior to the men’s hockey orientation camp for prospective Canadian Olympians from Aug. 24 to 28 at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

“(The Olympics) will be a very memorable and amazing experience,” Iginla said. “But at the same time, I’m not really thinking about it a lot right now.

“Right now, in the next 60 days, we play 29 games. It’s all about improving our road record and the push to the Stanley Cup playoffs.”

But a year from now?

“From being there in the past, I know the expectation is to go for that gold medal,” he said, “and win the gold medal.”

Calgary Herald

vhall@theherald.canwest.com

 
 
 
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