TAMPA - The Tampa Bay Lightning's top stars were officially snubbed by Team Canada today when the 23-man Olympic roster was announced Wednesday afternoon.
That means Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos will not compete in Vancouver, although injury replacements can be added until Feb. 15. TheWinter Olympics begin Feb. 12.
For St. Louis, a member of the 2006 team and a key contributor on many Team Canada participants in the World Championships the past season, not getting called to play for his country in a tournament on home ice was a big blow.
"I never take anything for granted. I never thought I was a lock, but I felt that I never played myself off the team at any time," St. Louis said before facing Montreal Wednesday night.
"Those are hard decision to make. I've been fortunate and had some great experience in the Olympics, World Cup, All-Star Games, World Championships, been very fortunate to have those experiences, and I felt that those experiences were leading to this big one. That's a big deception, but I always felt I was working for this experience and when you are told that you are not going to participate in that experience, it's hard to take. But life is full of disappointment. You just have to accept it, not be happy with it, but you have to move on."
Of the Lightning's three candidates to play for Canada, St. Louis was probably the most surprising omission. The 34-year-old is tied for the league lead with 20 power play points, third with 35 assists and 11th in overall scoring with 43 points. During Canada's orientation camp during the summer, St. Louis played on the top line with Jarome Iginla and Sidney Crosby, and is versatile enough to play in any role.
"Marty is one of the best wingers in the game. For him not to be part of that team, I was very surprised," Lecavalier said. "He played pretty well in the last Olympics and the past two years at the World Championships, he was probably the best player on that team. I think if you have a chance to get a Martin St. Louis on your team, you take it. That's how I feel about Marty, how good he is and what he means to the team."
Lecavalier, meanwhile, was considered to be on the bubble at the start of the season and a slow start didn't help his cause as other centers around the league are enjoying better seasons to this point. A former Rocket Richard Trophy winner as the league's leading goal scorer, Lecavalier entered Wednesday's game with nine goals and 37 points, tied for 25th in the league in scoring.
"I didn't really know what to expect. I don't want to say if I was surprised or not because you never know for sure," Lecavalier said. "There's a lot of, and I saw it in camp this summer, a lot of good hockey players. So, what can you do?"
Stamkos, meanwhile, played himself into consideration despite not being invited to the summer camp attended by both Lecavalier and St. Louis. With 21 goals this season, two fewer than all last year, the second-year Stamkos is seventh in the league in goals and is tied for ninth with seven power play goals. But not hearing his name called still offered a level of disappointment for the 19-year-old.
"Obviously I tried to do as much as I could to get myself in that equation, so it's an honor within itself just to have your name kind of swirled around in there," he said. "At the end of the day, I wouldn't say it caught me off guard with the decisions because there are so many great players who have had past experience, and my age probably factored into that."
While the NHL has not committed to disrupting its season so league players can participate in the 2014 games in Russia, count Stamkos as one of those who hope the league opts to continue the Olympic tradition started with the 1998 games in Nagano, Japan.
"That's looking pretty far down the road, but you would like to participate in something like the Olympics," Stamkos said. "I've hopefully got a lot of years ahead of me and I would be in full support of going over for future Olympics. It's obviously the highest level that you can represent your country and hopefully they will do it in 2014."
Here is the roster:
Forwards: Patrice Bergeron (Boston), Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim), Dany Heatley (San Jose), Jarome Iginla (Calgary), Patrick Marleau (San Jose), Brenden Morrow (Dallas), Rick Nash (Columbus), Cory Perrey (Anaheim), Mike Richards (Philadelphia), Eric Staal (Carolina), Joe Thornton (San Jose), Jonathan Toews (Chicago).
Defense: Dan Boyle (San Jose), Drew Doughty (Los Angeles), Duncan Keith (Chicago), Scott Niedermayer (Anaheim), Chris Pronger (Philadelphia), Brent Seabrook (Chicago), Shea Weber (Nashville).
Goaltenders: Martin Brodeur (New Jersey), Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh), Roberto Luongo (Vancouver).
One player who did get the call from his country was G Antero Niittymaki, who was included in the roster for Team Finland. Niittymaki led Finland to the gold-medal game in 2006 before losing to Sweden.
This time, he doesn't expect to get much playing time behind Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff.
"It's probably going to take an injury for me. Kipper is probably going to get in most of the games," Niittymaki said. "But it's a big honor for me."
A spat between Time Warner Cable and the Fox television network could leave Lightning fans out in the cold starting with Saturday's game against Pittsburgh.
Sun Sports, broadcast rights holder for all Lightning games, will be off the air to 1.5 million Bright House Networks subscribers in the Lightning's viewing market if a deal between the parties is not struck before midnight tonight.
"We are very concerned for our fans, but we are still hopeful that the two sides can get together before the bewitching hour," Lightning spokesman Bill Wickett said.
Injured D Matt Walker participated in Wednesday's morning skate and stayed on the ice for extra work, indicating he's close to returning after missing the past five games with an undisclosed lower-body injury.
"I'm just trying to get in shape now, but everything feels good. I don't feel it anymore," Walker said. "I've been skating on my own for a couple of days, but it was nice to be out there. Now I just have to get my elevation up. It feels like I'm in Denver right now."