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Granato left off '06 roster

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Cammi Granato, the face and driving force of U.S. women's hockey as it emerged over the last decade, will not play in the 2006 Winter Olympics.

Granato was left off the USA's 22-player roster Thursday for its pre-Olympic tour, likely marking the end of her international playing career and an era.

"This is obviously one of the most disappointing and difficult days of my competitive career," Granato wrote in a statement released to USA TODAY.

Granato, 34, is the only U.S. player who has competed in every world championships since 1990. When women's hockey made its debut as a medal sport at the 1998 Olympics, she captained the gold medal U.S. team. She also was captain of the 2002 U.S. Olympic team, which won silver.

"Cammi is USA Hockey, really," said U.S. defenseman Angela Ruggiero, who is on the pre-Olympic roster. "Every single player on our roster has learned something from Cammi Granato and she'll leave that legacy whether she's here or not."

Granato was among 40 players invited to a training camp that began Aug.18 in Lake Placid. She spoke several times recently of possibly making the 2006 Games her last hurrah.

"I trained as hard for this camp as any before, and I came to Lake Placid ready to compete and ready to succeed," Granato wrote. "This hasn't been easy news for me, and it's going to take me some time to absorb and understand this. It's not what I trained for, and it's certainly not what I expected. That said, I am really proud of the players named to the roster."

Forward Shelley Looney, another pioneer for the U.S. team, also was left off the roster.

Ben Smith, named the U.S. women's Olympic coach for a third time, said injuries have caught up with Looney. He did not give a reason for leaving Granato off the roster, other than alluding to the increasing speed of the women's game.

"Like all players, if they choose to try to play forever, their number's liable to come up," he said.

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