While the United States is having trouble rounding up 12 top professional basketball players willing to participate in the upcoming Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, Canada is having no such worries when it comes to selecting their World Cup of Hockey roster — the country's equivalent of a sports knighthood.
Take Coyotes captain Shane Doan, who underwent minor knee surgery as soon as the NHL season ended to make sure he would be ready and able should the call come from Team Canada executive director Wayne Gretzky.
And Saturday, Doan was one of 26 players selected to wear the maple leaf for Canada when the top eight hockey nations in the world collide beginning Aug. 30 in both Canada (Toronto and Montreal) and the United States (St. Paul, Minn.).
Doan suffered a knee sprain in the final week of the regular season and was forced to miss last month's World Championships in Prague, Czech Republic — where Canada took home its second straight gold medal.
But already ahead of schedule and set to begin light running following minor surgery, Doan isn't about to miss a chance to play in an intense tournament featuring the world's best players.
“In Canada, hockey is like all four of the major sports we have here rolled into one. If you are invited, it's like a dream, and any player would do anything it takes to play,'' said Doan, who set career highs in goals, assists and points last season. “I wanted to play in the World Championships badly. We won the gold last year and to have to sit and watch them repeat was tough. There were players out there trying to prove themselves and earn a spot on the World Cup team, and I wanted my chance.''
It wasn't necessary. With Gretzky, the Coyotes’ managing partner, lobbying heavily, Doan was a slam-dunk to make the team and is rumored to be earmarked to play beside two scorers still fighting for the Stanley Cup — Patrick Marleau of San Jose and Jarome Iginla of Calgary.
Doan said the timing of the tournament is perfect. The NHL's collective bargaining agreement expires on Sept. 15, the day after the World Cup championship game.
“There is going to be an incredible amount of attention on the tournament, and everyone is going to want to keep the momentum going and carry it into the new NHL season,'' Doan said. “I think we all know what's at stake and how important it is to avoid any work stoppage. At least I hope we all do.''