SASKATOON - The talent has been assembled - from scoring star Sidney Crosby to veteran captain Scott Niedermayer to 20-year-old surprise Drew Doughty - and now the roster for the Canadian men's Olympic hockey team is known.
In a hall packed with about 4,000 screaming supporters, executive director Steve Yzerman and his management team read off the names Wednesday of the 23 players who will skate for Canada at the Vancouver Games in February.
It was no surprise that Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins scoring star who will carry much of the load of the country's sky-high expectations, was named after he was controversially left off the aging team that finished a disastrous seventh at the 2006 Games in Turin, Italy.
"This is a special honour," Crosby told reporters in New Jersey before facing the Devils on Wednesday night. "I'm pretty proud of it.
"From here on in it's going to be a pretty popular subject, not that it wasn't already. To be able to put faces on the team; I think everyone is getting more and more excited for it, and this is the next step in that process."
The list includes unexpected names as well, starting with Doughty, the gifted Los Angeles Kings defenceman who drew rave reviews at the world championships last spring, and Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron, lauded for his faceoff and penalty-killing skills.
Dallas Stars winger Brendan Morrow was another who made the team, while several veterans of past Olympic teams, including Vincent Lecavalier, Shane Doan, Ryan Smyth and Martin St. Louis, were overlooked.
Niedermayer will serve as captain with fellow defenceman Chris Pronger, Crosby and Calgary Flames star Jarome Iginla as the alternates.
"A first glance, it looks younger, but extremely talented, with guys who have had success at all different levels," said Iginla.
The goaltenders were obvious picks - veteran Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo and Marc-Andre Fleury.
The defence includes the Chicago Blackhawks duo of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, as well as Shea Weber and Dan Boyle.
Combinations from club teams were favoured, including the dynamic top line of the San Jose Sharks - Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau - and the Anaheim Ducks duo of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
Sniper Rick Nash, centre Eric Staal, physical centre Mike Richards, gritty winger Brendan Morrow and versatile young forward Jonathan Toews also made the cut.
The crowd at the cavernous WorldFest venue near the Credit Union Centre at the world junior hockey championship reserved special cheers for head coach and Saskatoon native Mike Babcock, who was heavily involved in the selection process, and Saskatchewan natives Getzlaf, Marleau and Morrow.
The midday announcement was also carried on some 13 network and cable channels across the country.
Yzerman was confident he and his team picked the best mix of talent from Canada's very deep pool, but acknowledged that very good players had to be left off the list.
"We had a lot of debate, all afternoon (Tuesday)," Yzerman said. "We took a break, went to the (Canadian junior) game last night and talked about it some more last evening and then we're deciding on one spot. Mike and I talked this morning and debated it again and virtually made the decision this morning at 7."
He said the final decision was on the 13th forward, although there was also debate on the final defence positions. That likely included the decision to take Doughty and leave off Washington Capitals rearguard Mike Green, the NHL's scoring leader among defencemen.
"Doughty was at the world championship last year and he just got better and better," said Yzerman. "We think he's an excellent offensive defenceman.
"He's big, he can skate and move the puck. The seven defencemen we picked are the ones we liked. We didn't take decisions lightly."
Doughty was delighted to get the call from Doug Armstrong, one of Yzerman's assistant general managers along with Kevin Lowe and Ken Holland. The players were alerted an hour before the list was made public.
"I really didn't know want to expect," Doughty said in Calgary before facing the Kings. "I knew I had a shot, but I knew I was young and there'a a lot of great D-men that were trying out for the team."
Lowe noted with a smile that a Chicago defenceman he called reacted with "a expletive, but an excited expletive."
Any player on the list who is injured can be replaced up to the eve of the start of the Games hockey tournament on Feb. 15. Yzerman said the injury replacements would come from among the late cuts, but did not offer any names.
Bergeron made the squad despite not being among the 46 players invited to the summer orientation camp in Calgary. He missed most of last season with a concussion, but is fully recovered and having a strong NHL season.
"He played very well in all parts of the game," said Yzerman. "He does the little things very well and we place a lot of value in that."
The Canadian team will be relatively young. Twelve of the 23 players are currently 25 or under.
"It's a great feeling and a great honour," said Staal, whose younger brother Jordan was considered, but finally left off the team. "That being said, it's going to be in Canada with that added bonus and it's going to be a lot of pressure by a lot of fun. It's going to be a blast."