NEW YORK - Center Mike Richards and defenseman Chris Pronger - Flyers at different stages of their careers - were among the 23 players named to Team Canada yesterday for the February Olympics in Vancouver.
Richards, 24, is on his first Olympic team. Pronger, 35, will be playing for the fourth time.
"I was a little bit surprised, actually," Richards said before last night's game against the Rangers. "The month of December wasn't the greatest, team-wise and personal-wise, but it's nice to be there and nice to be part of the group. . . .
"I had shivers this morning when I found out."
Richards said his parents were the first people he called when he learned the news.
"My parents are my biggest influence on my career; they're somebody who, in tough times, I call all the time and they give me advice," he said. "I think everyone knows I like going back home, and they're a big part of the reason why. They're excited about it, and I'm excited to have them come to Vancouver."
Pronger, who was named an alternate captain, said being selected "never gets old. It's always an honor to represent your country and have an opportunity to win a gold medal."
Eight years ago, Pronger was on the championship team in Salt Lake City.
Playing in the Olympics in Canada "is more exciting, and it's a lot more pressure," Pronger said. "Obviously with Canadian hockey, there's a lot more pressure put on winning - and rightfully so."
Team Canada bypassed forwards Jeff Carter, who finished second in the NHL with 46 goals last year but has slumped this season, and Simon Gagne.
Carter declined to talk about the Olympics, but Flyers coach Peter Laviolette hinted that he wouldn't be surprised if the center was added to the team as an injury replacement.
"It's a little disappointing probably for Jeff because he's an elite player; he's represented his country in the past [in juniors] . . . and certainly he's worthy of it," Laviolette said. "But you never know what happens with the Canadian Olympic team and who's actually going to be on the ice when that time comes around. He needs to continue to just play hard, and if something should happen, put himself in position. I know he was close and was on the bubble."
Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen was named to Finland's team, which includes former Flyers Antero Niittymaki, Joni Pitkanen and Lasse Kukkonen.
"It's a great honor, but it's going to be tough," Timonen said of the grueling Olympic schedule that interrupts the NHL season. "The days we don't play, I have to take it easy and regroup. I can't wear myself down. That's probably the biggest thing."
On Tuesday, Flyers defensemen Oskars Bartulis (Lativia) and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen (Norway) were named to their respective Olympic teams.
The U.S. team will be named tomorrow. If Matt Carle were to be named, the Flyers would have five defensemen in the Olympics.
Winter Classic wager
Peter Luukko, president of the Flyers' parent company, Comcast-Spectacor, has a friendly wager with a Boston Bruins executive on tomorrow's Winter Classic.
Weather permitting, the Flyers will face the Bruins at 1 p.m. at Fenway Park.
Should the Flyers win, John Wentzell, who oversees operations at the Bruins' usual home arena, TD Garden, will send lobsters and chowder to Wachovia Center staffers.
If the Bruins win, Luukko will send Philly cheesesteaks and pretzels to the Garden staff.
The NHL hopes to make a decision today on whether the game will played tomorrow. There is a 70 percent chance of a rain-snow mixture tomorrow. Snow is forecast for Saturday, which would be the makeup date.
The Flyers and Bruins are slated to practice today at Fenway. - Sam Carchidi