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U.S. Olympic hockey roster includes three Lakers

Doug Weight

Dec. 21, 2005

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - USA Hockey today announced the 23-player roster for the 2006 U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team that will compete at the XX Olympic Winter Games Feb. 15-26 in Torino, Italy.

"We are extremely pleased with our team and feel very confident that we've put a solid group together that will best put us in a position to compete for the gold medal," said Don Waddell, the general manager of Team USA and also the executive vice president and general manager of the National Hockey League's Atlanta Thrashers. "The selection process was an extremely difficult one and that's a terrific statement for hockey in the United States. It means our talent pool in this country continues to grow."

All players on the roster come from NHL teams and the group includes 11 players with Olympic experience, including two three-time Olympians and four two-time Olympians.

Among the 13 forwards selected to represent the United States are USA Hockey veterans Mike Modano (Livonia, Mich.) and Doug Weight (Warren, Mich.); and rising stars Brian Gionta (Rochester, N.Y.) and Erik Cole (Oswego, N.Y.). Both Modano and Weight are two-time Olympians, having competed for Team USA at the 1998 and 2002 Olympic Winter Games. Modano leads the Dallas Stars with 30 points (10-20) in 30 games, while Weight tops the St. Louis Blues with 23 points (6-17) in 27 games through Dec. 18.

While Gionta and Cole are Olympic newcomers, both represented the United States at the 2005 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship this past spring. Gionta leads the New Jersey Devils with 33 points (18-15) in 32 games, while Cole has totaled 25 points (9-16) in 32 games through Dec. 18 for the NHL Southeast Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes.

Team USA's defense includes both experience and youth, as three-time Olympian Chris Chelios (Chicago, Ill.) and 25-year-olds Jordan Leopold (Golden Valley, Minn.) and John-Michael Liles (Zionsville, Ind.) will help man the United States blue line. Chelios first played on a U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team in 1984 and was a member of both the 1998 and 2002 Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Teams. He has played on 11 U.S. National Teams, including competing for the United States at the World Cup of Hockey 2004.

Leopold and Liles each carry an impressive USA Hockey resume including being members of the inaugural class of USA Hockey's National Team Development Program and the U.S. Men's National Team that competed at the 2005 IIHF World Championship. Leopold currently ranks tops among defensemen on the Calgary Flames with a plus-eight rating in 32 games, while Liles leads all Colorado Avalanche defensemen with eight goals and 24 points in 33 games through Dec. 18.

The United States' three goaltenders will be Rick DiPietro (Winthrop, Mass.), Robert Esche (Utica, N.Y.) and John Grahame (Denver, Colo). DiPietro joins Leopold and Liles as a member of the NTDP's inaugural class and most recently helped backstop Team USA at the 2005 IIHF World Championship, compiling a 1.68 goals-against average and .942 save percentage in four games. Esche has been a member of five U.S. National Teams since 1997 and posted a 2.53 GAA and .909 save percentage for Team USA at the World Cup of Hockey 2004. Grahame owns a 14-10-0 record for the Tampa Bay Lightning this season with a 2.86 GAA and .890 save percentage.

John Grahame

The selection of the U.S. Men's Olympic Team is subject to the approval of the United States Olympic Committee's Games Preparation Division.

The U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team will begin its quest for gold on Feb. 15 when it takes on Latvia at 3 p.m. EST.

NOTES: Peter Laviolette (Raleigh, N.C.), head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, is the head coach of the U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team. Mike Sullivan (Duxbury, Mass.), head coach of the Boston Bruins, and Keith Allain (Centerville, Mass.), goaltending coach for the St. Louis Blues, will serve as the team's assistant coaches ... Three NHL teams have three members each on the roster, including the Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders ... In 2002, the United States captured its first Olympic medal since winning gold in 1980 when it earned a silver medal at the XIX Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah ... Chris Chelios (Chicago, Ill.) and Keith Tkachuk (Melrose, Mass.) could be the first four-time Olympians in the history of U.S. men's ice hockey ... Team USA's average age is 31.2, average height is 6-0 and average weight is 201 ... Players with Olympic experience include Chelios, Derian Hatcher (Sterling Heights, Mich.), Aaron Miller (Buffalo, N.Y.), Brian Rafalski (Dearborn, Mich.), Mathieu Schneider (New York, N.Y.), Chris Drury (Trumbull, Conn.), Bill Guerin (Wilbraham, Mass.), Modano, Brian Rolston (Flint, Mich.), Tkachuk and Weight ... If he is on the ice in Team USA's opening game on Feb. 15 vs. Latvia, Chelios, who will be 44 at the time, will be the third-oldest participant ever in an Olympic ice hockey tournament. Only Hungarian Bela Ordody and German Alfred Steinka (both competing at the age of 48 in 1928 Olympics in St. Moritz) are ahead of Chelios in the age category.

Brian Rolston

ADDITIONAL NOTES: Goaltender Rick DiPietro, 24, is the youngest player named to the 2006 U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team ... Chelios will become the first ice hockey player to have participated in an Olympic tournament 22 years after having played in his first. Chelios' first Olympic appearance came in 1984 as a 22-year-old collegian out of the University of Wisconsin. Chelios will break the record of Switzerland's Bibi Torriani, who was the first hockey player to have 20 years between his first and last Olympics (1928-1948, both in St. Moritz). Chelios, who already became the oldest hockey medalist four years ago in Salt Lake City at the age of 40 and 30 days, was named both Best Defenseman by the Olympic directorate and to the all-star team as selected by the media in Salt Lake City ... Team USA's roster features six players born in New York, five born in Michigan and three each born in Minnesota and Massachusetts ... From a collegiate standpoint, both Boston University and Lake Superior State University have three former players on Team USA, while Boston College, Clarkson University and the University of Wisconsin all have two.

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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