PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby, disheartened at being left off Canada's Olympic hockey team, refused Thursday to criticize the decision and promised to do everything he can to play his way into the 2010 Games.
The 18-year-old Crosby's disappointment at being omitted from the most talented roster in hockey may have been heightened by his belief he was one of the last players passed over for the defending Olympic gold medalists.
"I knew there were a group of guys in the mix for so many spots -- I don't know how many it was, but I think I was right in there," said the Pittsburgh Penguins rookie, who has 31 points in 31 games. "It's special to play in the Olympics and when you're that close, it's a little bit tough because you don't know what's going to
happen when you're 22 or 26."
Less than two weeks ago, Team Canada executive director Wayne Gretzky said Crosby was "tremendous for the game" and "a breath of fresh air." Gretzky also told Penguins owner-player Mario
Lemieux that Crosby was under consideration.
"There are a lot of great hockey players from Canada and I
realize that," Crosby said. "You're not making an All-Star team,
you're not choosing the guys who are the best scorers or who have
the most points or the top 20 point-getters in the NHL, you're
making a team to go and win.
"That includes guys who have to be defensive forwards, guys who have some different roles. Either I didn't fit that role or I
didn't earn a place to be there."
Crosby's age and lack of experience -- 21 of the 23 Canadian players have world or Olympic experience -- may have weighed against
him, according to Lemieux, who captained Canada's first gold-medal
team in 50 years in Salt Lake City.
"They're trying to put the best team together, so experience is
going to be a factor over there -- I think that had to do with the
way they picked the team," Lemieux told The Associated Press.
Crosby learned he wouldn't be going to the Turin Games on
Wednesday night, and Lemieux said the No. 1 draft pick was
understandably discouraged. Crosby is living in Lemieux's home.
"He's young and he's going to have many opportunities,"
Lemieux said. "I know he was disappointed last night, but there
are so many good young players now with a little bit more
experience. It's unfortunate, but he'll be there for the next
Lemieux pulled his own name out of consideration for Team Canada
shortly after being hospitalized two weeks away with an irregular
heartbeat, which may have lessened any influence he had to get
Crosby onto the team.
"Yeah, maybe it would have made a difference," Lemieux said.
Crosby will use the two-week Olympic break to rest up -- and,
yes, he'll watch the Olympics on TV. He's no Jeremy Roenick, who
threatened to root for Canada if he was left off Team USA; Crosby
will be cheering for Canada.
What he won't do is dwell on not being in Italy, or blame any
problems Team Canada has on him not being there.
"It's important for me to move on," Crosby said. "I try to go
out and give myself an opportunity to play there and if not, I'm
not second-guessing any guy there because they all deserve to be
there. It's tough because I thought I had a chance, but it's not
tough because I think I should replace someone else, it's not like
that at all."
Crosby's next game is Friday night against the Philadelphia
Flyers, whose coach, Ken Hitchcock, is a Team Canada assistant.
Several weeks ago, Hitchcock suggested Crosby is a "diver" who
embellishes contact to draw penalties.
Crosby won't draw any extra motivation because he'll be opposing Hitchcock.
"I'm not going against anyone except the Philadelphia Flyers," he said.