In the five Olympic ice hockey tournaments since the NHL and the IOC started allowing professional athletes to compete in 1998, the Canadian men’s team has won the Gold Medal three times (2002, 2010, 2014).
That’s not a huge surprise, given that Canada is a country that prides itself on hockey. It’s still far and away the most popular sport in the nation, despite the fact Canadian teams all occupy the bottom-third of the NHL standings this season.
As impressive as it is, it still begs the question: what happened to them the other two years when they left Nagano (’98) and Turin (’06) empty handed? Well, in 1998 they still placed fourth in the tournament, and they lost to the eventual Gold Medal winners (the Czechs) in the semis (in a shootout, to boot), so that’s almost excusable. The 2006 tournament in Turin was a different story.
Heading in as the narrow favorites, Canada was set to defend the Gold Medal they won in Salt Lake City in 2002. Seven of the players who won Gold in 2002 would return for the 2006 tournament. They seemingly had all the ingredients for success, but once it was all over Canada finished in a hugely disappointing fashion, losing 2-0 to the Russians in the quarterfinal.
The entire nation was left dumbfounded, unsure of how a team as stacked as Canada could finish so poorly. Many questioned some of the roster decisions made by Hockey Canada, saying it was tailored for success on a smaller ice surface, and not the big international ice they’d be playing on in Turin.
This list is unique in that it’s not a countdown so much as it is a re-selection of the entire Canadian roster. You’ll find that about half of the mock team we made up also made an appearance on the actual 2006 squad, but we feel that if these selections had been made instead of the ones Gretzky and co. made in ’06, things would have turned out differently for Canada.
Our selections in goal and on defense are similar to the actual selections made in 2006, so we’re combining all of the goaltender selections and defense selections into their own individual categories. Since scoring was the real issue for the ’06 team, the forwards get a real shake up. Check it out:
14 Goalies: Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, Curtis Joseph
No real change here from the original team, aside from the fact that we have Joseph as the third string instead of Marty Turco. Yes, Turco was at the peak of his career and Cujo’s was winding down, but since this third goalie never plays anyway… maybe Joseph’s experience could have come in handy?
Who am I kidding, the third goalie doesn’t matter one bit. I just didn’t want to pick the same three goalies so I went with Cujo over Turco. I also like him more, and he was actually having a pretty good season with the Coyotes at the time.
14. Defense: Rob Blake, Adam Foote, Chris Pronger, Jay Bouwmeester, Dan Boyle, Dion Phaneuf, Wade Redden
Blake, Foote, Pronger, Bouwmeester, and Redden all made the team in ’06, meaning that Boyle and Phaneuf are the changes I made. They replace Robyn Regehr and Bryan McCabe. You’ll remember that Scott Niedermayer was named to the original team, but he missed the tournament due to injury so was replaced and is ineligible for our mock-team.
The reason we take Boyle and Phaneuf over Regehr and McCabe is speed and youth. This team was a little too old for my liking, and Phaneuf was in the middle of a phenomenal rookie season. He would have played the role of seventh defenseman, which is what McCabe played. Boyle over Regehr makes sense because he’s the superior skater, which comes in handy on the big ice.
13 C - Joe Thornton
Jumbo Joe made an appearance on the 2006 squad, and we’d have him on ours as well. Despite the fact that Thornton’s game is well-tailored to the smaller ice surface, he was amid a career year that saw him put up 125 points, winning both the Hart and Art Ross Trophies.
Thornton only put up three points in Canada’s five games, but we’d be willing to bet he’d have been more productive if a few of his Sharks teammates were sent to Turin with him.
12 C Joe Sakic
Joe Sakic was named team captain of the 2006 team, which was the right call. He led the team to Gold in 2002 in Salt Lake City, and he was still considered an elite player in the NHL in '06. Although he only posted three points in the tournament, Sakic is a walking intangible and brings more than scoring to whatever team he’s on.
With the right pieces around him, Sakic could have succeeded in Turin. You simply can’t leave a player like Sakic off of Team Canada. That would be like leaving Sidney Crosby off! Oh, wait…
11 C - Sidney Crosby
Yes, Sidney Crosby was a fresh-faced rookie in 2006, and in most cases that would be a good reason to keep someone off the team. But when it’s Crosby—a generational talent who was off to an incredible start to his career—you find space for him on the roster.
Team Canada’s brass took experience over skill in this case, and I’d be willing to bet it’s a decision they’ve regretted ever since. Crosby has won two Olympic Gold’s since his snub in ’06.
10 C - Brad Richards
Brad Richards made the team in ’06, and rightfully so. He was owner of the Conn Smythe Trophy at the time of the Turin games, and he is a versatile player. He was at the prime of his career, and was relied upon in all situations for the Lightning.
Not that anyone was particularly impressive for Canada in Turin, but Richards did lead the team in points (which was just four, but still).
9 LW - Dany Heatley
Dany Heatley was one of the game’s elite goal scorers in 2006, so obviously he was on the original Turin team as well as our re-imagination of it here. In the middle of his first 50-goal campaign with the Sens in 2005-06, Heatley managed just a single goal in Turin.
Things could have been different for the sniper and his fellow countrymen if he had a few different pieces to work with, specifically a certain right winger he was playing with that season in Ottawa…
8 LW - Patrick Marleau
Patrick Marleau won Gold medals with Canada in 2010 and 2014, but he wasn’t named to the 2006 team in Turin. This was a bit of a head-scratcher, because Marleau was having a fantastic season, he had versatility (could play wing or center), and he already had built-in chemistry with teammate Joe Thornton.
Marleau was one of the four best Canadian left wingers at the time, so there’s no good reason he was left off the Turin team, unless management felt he was riding the coattails of Thornton.
7 LW - Paul Kariya
Paul Kariya won an Olympic Gold Medal in 2002 with Canada, and he was still a very effective player in 2006, so why he wasn’t on the Canadian Olympic team was a bit of a mystery. He’s a finesse player who knew how to produce and had spent the last decade proving as much.
He finished 2005-06 with 31 goals and 85 points, meaning they certainly could have used his level of production at the ’06 games.
6 LW - Simon Gagne
Simon Gagne is the other left winger (in addition to Heatley) who makes an appearance on our team as well as the original ’06 team. Gagne was a solid contributor at both ends of the ice, and he was essentially at the peak of his career in 2006.
Gagne was also on the 2002 team that won in Salt Lake City, so he knew what it took to win on such a large stage.
5 RW - Jarome Iginla
Jarome Iginla is the only right winger who appears on our team as well as the actual 2006 team. Iggy is the type of player you just don’t pass up on if you have the chance to put him on your team. He was and is a proven winner, having won two Olympic Gold Medals in his career—one before Turin in ’02, and one after in ’10.
Iginla finished tied for the team lead in goals, but unfortunately that means he scored just two goals in the tournament.
4 RW- Brendan Shanahan
This is one of the most egregious omissions from the 2006 Olympic roster. Shanahan was the perfect embodiment of everything Canadian hockey represented. He was amid one of the six 40-plus goal campaigns he had in his career, and he won a Gold with team Canada in 2002.
Despite all this, Shanahan was somehow left to watch the games from the comfort of his couch, something I’m sure Team Canada brass regrets in hindsight.
3 RW - Jonathan Cheechoo
This is probably going to be a controversial choice, but it shouldn’t be. Putting Jonathan Cheechoo on this team is the equivalent of putting Chris Kunitz on the 2014 team. Cheechoo was amid his best season, scoring 56 goals alongside linemate Joe Thornton, who could have used his trigger man in Turin.
The Canadian selection committee for the 2006 Turin games failed to see the advantages of bringing players who already had established chemistry together, case-in-point the lack of Cheechoo and Marleau, who as a trio with Thornton likely could have made up a pretty great line.
2 RW - Jason Spezza
Jason Spezza was part of the “taxi-squad” in 2006, meaning he went to Turin as injury insurance. He was never needed or used, which is unfortunate because he was in the middle of one of the best seasons of his career, notching 71 assists—many of which were the results of nice feeds over to Sens line mate Dany Heatley, who could have used his set-up man in Turin.
This is another case of the Canadian brass taking experience over youth. It’s safe to say that the Turin team lacked energy, and a young Spezza could have helped out in that regard.
1 13th Forward - Vincent Lecavalier
Finally, we name Vincent Lecavalier as our 13th forward. There were a lot of names up for this role on our version of the team: his Lightning teammate Martin St. Louis, for one. But since Lecavalier is a pivot, he edged out his buddy for the role.
Other players who were on the cusp include Eric Staal, Shane Doan, and Rick Nash (the latter two were on the 2006 team), but Lecavalier was just hitting the peak of his career and was legitimately one of the best players in the world at that point, so we couldn't leave him off the team.
Here’s a complete list of players who made the 2006 team who were left off of our roster: Marty Turco, Bryan McCabe, Robyn Regehr, Todd Bertuzzi, Shane Doan, Kris Draper, Rick Nash, Ryan Smyth, and Martin St. Louis.