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Stevie Y’s zinger was golden

Canada’s hockey honcho doesn’t shrink from the pressure — nor will his team

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VANCOUVER — We thought, just for a moment, that Steve Yzerman might go with the guy.

That maybe the executive director of Canada’s Olympic men’s hockey team would leap over the table where the team’s big thinkers were assembled, rip off his suit jacket and have at it with a reporter wearing a Russia jacket.

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First, a little background is in order to set the scene...

Team Canada held a press conference on Saturday and, as is often the case whenever somebody from Hockey Canada speaks, there were the usual assortment of queries about the pressure to win gold and doing it on home ice.

There were questions about the status of Ryan Getzlaf, who is working on a bum ankle, about the growth in Sidney Crosby’s game and if there had been any second-guessing about the squad since it was announced in late December.

But here’s where the juicy part started.

First came this question from a foreign journalist:
"As Team Canada is only allowed to win the gold, the players must be under big pressure. So my question is, is there any psychological assistance for the players?"

Yzerman played along nicely, speaking of how NHL players handle pressure every day and blah, blah, blah.

Then came the Russian dude with a long-winded statement/question that got Stevie Y’s blood boiling:
"Steve, I wanted to follow up the wonderful question about Canada only being allowed to win gold. You know, it’s true. And it probably compounds the pressure even more that Canada is not really on top right now in the last two worlds and the juniors. And this possibly being the last chance for the top players to come together in a single tournament for Canada to prove itself. How enormous is the pressure on you right now personally?"

And it’s here where Yzerman — one of the greatest captains in NHL history — looked like he might go goofy on the guy.

Instead, he fired back this juicy answer which — in our completely biased opinion — is hall-of-fame worthy in itself:
"Well, honestly, do you think they’ll have a parade in Moscow if the Russians go home with the silver medal? They won’t," Yzerman spat. "The expectation in Russia is gold.

"The expectation in Sweden is gold. And, whether they admit it or not, the USA is in this to win a gold medal. And I won’t forget any of the other countries as well.

"All of us are playing to win the tournament, to win a gold medal. Every team that doesn’t will be disappointed."

Honestly, we were fixated on Yzerman at this point and missed whether the Russian had slinked down into his seat, but it was a verbal smackdown that also spoke volumes of the approach Canada is taking in the hockey tournament and in the Games overall.

Pressure? Yes, there’s pressure. Always is whenever a team of Canadians pull on the skates and the Maple Leaf. And — like, duh — it gets ramped up a zillion times when the tournament is right here on home ice.

Finally, watching Yzerman in action, watching the passion he still has for the Canadian uniform and for this country we were left with one question of our own we were dying to ask but never got the chance:

Wonder if he wants to suit up?

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

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