COLOGNE, Germany – Hockey Canada has come out in defence of Sidney Crosby after the International Ice Hockey Federation included him in a swipe at players who declined invitations to attend the world hockey championship.
The IIHF posted a story titled “Saying No to Your Country” on its website Wednesday, claiming that players who chose not to participate were turning “their backs not only on the team and its fans but also to the system which developed them and made them rich and famous.” The story, written by IIHF communications director Szymon Szemberg, names Crosby, Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Backstrom, among others.
“How can a player who is 22 or 25 or 27, and who was just eliminated from the playoffs be tired?” Szemberg wrote. “Tired is a miner who works in a damp pit in Miktivka, in the Donetz Plateau in Ukraine, who never sees daylight and who provides living for a family of five in a modest two-room apartment. That is tired.
“Tired is a divorced mother with two young kids who double shifts as a nurse assistant and cleaning lady to make ends meet.
“Why is a 22-year-old Sidney Crosby tired when a 34-year-old Ryan Smyth is answering the bell for his country despite having represented Canada at the worlds already on eight occasions?”
Scott Salmond, the men’s national team director for Hockey Canada, called the story “inappropriate.”
“Sidney Crosby’s the guy they singled out — he’s played in two finals (in 2008 and 2009), he’s played in the second round of the playoffs (this year), he’s played in the Olympics for us,” said Salmond. “I don’t think it’s fair to single him out. We respect where he is and we respect what he’s done for us and I think what he’ll do for us in the future.”
There are fewer NHL stars at this year’s world championship because it is being held so soon after the Vancouver Olympics in February.
Hockey Canada extended an open invitation to its available Olympic players to come to the world championship. Forward Corey Perry was the only one to take them up on the offer and says he understands why others didn’t.
“You’ve got to look at the guys that didn’t come — a lot of guys were in the playoffs and a lot of guys played in the Olympics,” said Perry. “That’s a lot hockey when you play 82 games and then the Olympics and then you start playing playoffs. The emotion level is so high that it’s tough to get going again with a little layoff. It’s not the easiest thing to do.
“I respect their decisions.”
Canadian captain Ray Whitney took issue with the fact that Crosby’s name was included in the story.
“I don’t think it’s fair to mention him,” said Whitney. “Obviously, any big tournament would like to have one of the world’s top players, (but) the IIHF doesn’t understand how hard the NHL is, how hard the schedule is. …
“I think (the IIHF) should concentrate more on making it more appealing for guys like (Crosby) to want to come over here and play.”
Salmond noted that Hockey Canada is already thinking about the 2014 Olympics and wanted to start exposing more young players to international competition.
He recalled the 2002 world championship where Canada had more than 60 players decline an invitation to the event. The program has grown a lot since then.
“We were thrilled with the response we had,” said Salmond. “We had guys calling us and that didn’t happen 10 years ago.”