Bertuzzi back on the world stage
TURIN--If you look really closely on Team Canada's jerseys, both those of the women and men, there's a thin line of gold that traces around the outside of the emblem on the chest and shoulder patches.
Over time, that golden touch seems to wear off on people. That extra little touch of class.
Today, in the basement of the Palasport Olimpico after an easy 7-2 victory over the host Italians, Canadian players stretched out along the fence in the mixed zone that separates the athletes from the media. There was the much decorated Marty Brodeur fielding queries, and nearby Shane Doan, a well-spoken member of Canada's 2004 World Cup championship roster.
In between, there was Todd Bertuzzi, only the most controversial playing member of the team, holding court before a number of scribes, sometimes smiling, only once looking mildly annoyed at a query.
It was the first time in almost six years, since he was a member of Team Canada at the 2000 world championships in St. Petersburg, Russia, that Bertuzzi had donned a Canadian jersey.
He seemed to appreciate it.
"I've got nothing to lose here and a lot to gain," he said quietly.
Exactly. Bertuzzi has been given an enormous chance by Wayne Gretzky to alter his largely negative public imagine here at the 2006 Winter Olympics, and he understands that.
Surrounded by class, and wearing a jersey tinged with gold, Bertuzzi played with skill and class today against the Italians, albeit in a game in which it would have been impossible, really, for any Canadian to look bad.
He made a smart, quick pass to Jarome Iginla for the opening goal of the game, assisted on another and helped create two more, once by screening Italian goalie Jason Muzzatti and leaping into the air to avoid another Iginla laser before it hit twine behind the game Muzzatti.
It's been a long, long time since a Canadian team did something truly embarrassing in international play, something that used to happen on an annual basis, and a long, long time since a member of Team Canada messed up royally on the international stage.
Bertuzzi does not intend to be that guy, although he did chuckle when asked how it felt not to hear boos from the mostly Italian crowd after a season of hearing jeers in every road game he plays.
"I'm sure, sooner or later, as the tournament goes on, I'll get one," he said.
Like other members of Team Canada, Bertuzzi's fighting for ice time, already knowing he'll not likely get anything like the 20-24 minutes he gets on a regular basis with the Vancouver Canucks. He can make errors, but you have to believe he's on a short leash when it comes to nastier stuff. Standing in Muzzatti's crease was easy enough yesterday, but against the Czechs, Finns and other international powers later in this tournament, he'll get a rougher ride and have to stay cool.
"It was good to get off to a good start," he said. "I've always felt comfortable on the big ice. . .it was important to start strong, get out there and make a name for myself."
The most controversial hockey player in Canada, it's fair to say, is off to an encouraging start.
Meantime, head coach Pat Quinn is already making changes, although this one was expected.
Quinn said today goaltender Roberto Luongo will start tomorrow night against the Germans, replacing Martin Brodeur.
With eight games in 12 days, Quinn has said from the start that while Brodeur is his No. 1 man, Luongo and perhaps even third-stringer Marty Turco will play.
"It'll be based on communication with the goalies, particularly (Brodeur)," said Quinn.
Brodeur allowed two goals on 20 shots in the Team Canada victory, one on a deflection by Jason Cirone, the other on a low shot by John Parco off a turnover by Bryan McCabe.