Home > Uncategorized > No NHLers: No more gold for Canada

No NHLers: No more gold for Canada

The Canadian Press Paul Kariya, centre, represented Canada the last time the country sent a squad of amateur players to the Olympics, bringing silver home from the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway. In those photo from way back then, Kariya is seen celebrating a goal with teammates Chris Kontos and Brad Schlegel. Kariya had just been selected fourth overall by the expansion Anaheim Ducks and the then-19-year-old was playing for the University of Maine when he was recruited to Team Canada. The full roster from 1994 can be found here: . With the NHL reportedly leaning towards not lending its players to future Olympics, Canada might need to ice a new-look roster as early as the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The Canadian Press
Paul Kariya, centre, represented Canada the last time the country sent a squad of amateur players to the Olympics, bringing home silver from the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway. In this photo from way back then, Kariya is seen celebrating a goal with teammates Chris Kontos and Brad Schlegel. Kariya had just been selected fourth overall by the expansion Anaheim Ducks and the then-19-year-old was playing for the University of Maine when he was recruited to Team Canada. The full roster from 1994 can be found here at Hockeydb.com. With the NHL reportedly leaning towards not lending its players to future Olympics, Canada might need to ice a new-look roster as early as the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Hockey has begun, and for many, NOW the Olympics have begun.

Well, enjoy it. Because it appears this will be the last time we’ll see players from the National Hockey League at the Winter Olympiad.

At least, for the foreseeable future.

Jared Waldo
Jared Waldo

Numerous reports over the past year have stated that the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia, will be the last time the NHL would agree to send players to the Olympics to compete in men’s ice hockey. An article published by TSN last Tuesday claims that decision could come within the next six months.

It would appear that the NHL and its owners are concerned about injuries to their ‘investments’, and it’s no secret that they’re unhappy with shutting down the league for two weeks to accommodate the commitment to the Olympic tournament.

If Sochi is the last time the NHL agrees to shut down to allow players to compete, what happens then?

From a Canadian standpoint, it’s hard to think that Hockey Canada would travel back in time and reinstate a national club program whose sole purpose would be to represent Canada at international competitions. If so, you’d likely see the same group of players wearing the maple leaf (or some iteration thereof) at the Spengler Cup, World Hockey Championship or any other competition over the course of the year that featured players over the age of 20.

In reality, that’s not really an option given today’s hockey landscape. Canada (and likely the United States) would have to build a team specifically for the Games. Much like they did for the 1988 Olympics in Calgary, these teams would have to be formed in advance, and their sole purpose would be to compete in the Olympics.

The players would then practice together like any pro team would, but would compete in a series of exhibition contests over the course of a ‘season’, playing other national programs, or even club teams in North America and Europe.

Ideal? Hardly.

With today’s state of the game, it probably wouldn’t be an overly strong team. Plus, there’s the financial aspect of having to pay the player, which wouldn’t be much. Yes, these players are (and were) supposed to be amateurs at the Olympics, so paying them seems a little backwards.

Unless you want players like myself on the blue-line and Larry Fisher in between the pipes, you need to pony up some dough. So now add in the difficult task of having to pay players in order to attract any semblance of talent.

But if there were no NHLers at the Olympic Games, who would make up the national team?

Looking at this from a Hockey Canada standpoint, any suggestion of ‘junior’ hockey is out of the question. There are a lot of logistical reasons why it wouldn’t work, and any prospect with NHL rights . . . well, forget about it.

Also, Canada (and likely the International Ice Hockey Federation), wouldn’t be interested in taking allure away from the World Junior Championship each Christmas — that close to a potential Olympics. Especially when Canada is hosting and the cash cow that comes along with it.

Another option may be skaters playing in the American Hockey League (or any other North American/European pro team, including the Kontinental Hockey League). Again, if there’s any players whose rights belong to NHL clubs, that’s probably not an option.

From an AHL point-of-view, available players would have to be on AHL-only deals, or two-way AHL contracts. Players would then have to be granted permission by their club teams to play in the Games, and there may not be a lot of interest in that for the same concerns NHL owners currently have.

Is there anything else left? Sure, but the calibre of hockey player starts to drop off after that.

College and university hockey is always an option from which to draw players from, and that could be a possibility for Canada. If you want to dig deeper, look no further than the Senior AAA ranks in our country.

Those that compete for the Allan Cup each season could be available for Canada at the Olympics, but now you’re dealing with men who could be anywhere from 25 to 45 years old with varying degrees of talent and experience, which means you’re REALLY starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel.

While there are a couple of options as to who could make up the future of Team Canada at the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea, none of them seem very palatable.

Keep in mind, European entries would still be able to draw from their usual club teams as well as the KHL in Russia. There may be the odd player to come over from North America (AHL) but, for the most part, they would draw from European pro clubs, and they’d definitely have the edge in terms of talent — especially the Russians.

And that’s the concerning part of all of this. While the Russians, Swedes and other European countries wouldn’t have access to NHL talent, they’d still have a lot of options on home soil to assemble a team. For Canada and the United States, those options dwindle substantially.

Suffice to say, if the NHL and its players decide to opt out of the Olympics in favour of reigniting the World Cup of Hockey (as is expected), then I wouldn’t expect too many podium finishes from North America in the years to come.

Jared (Wally) Waldo is former sports anchor/reporter turned radio marketing professional for Newcap Radio in Red Deer, Alta., but his passion for sports still exists. His experience covering local sports in Central Alberta includes the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels as a reporter for the online hockey program Rebels This Week. Follow him on Twitter: @OdlawDeraj.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Claude
    June 27, 2014 at 6:10 am

    You’re inferiority complex towards Canadian hockey is blaring and quite embarrassing if you ask me. If Canada won a silver in 94 with no pros what makes you think they couldn’t win a gold? more amateur journalism from you.

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