By Andrew Ponieks – IIHF.com
THE MEN’S ROSTER
Led by general manager Sean Burke and head coach Willie Desjardins, Hockey Canada unveiled its 25-man roster of the upcoming Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, Korea.
The two-time defending gold medalists will be relying most heavily on players from the KHL, the Russian league from which 13 of the 25 are currently playing.
In addition, four players come from the top Swiss league (NL), three from the Swedish league (SHL) and American league (AHL). Germany (DEL) and Austria (EBEL) are providing one player each.
The youngest player on the roster is 25-year-old Christian Thomas (whose father, Steve, played at four World Championships, winning a gold and two silver) while the oldest is 37-year-old defenceman Chris Lee, who made his IIHF debut with Canada in sensational fashion at least year’s World Championship, helping the team win a silver medal.
This is a veteran and experienced team. The average age is 30.44, and only 8 of the 25 players are in their twenties. Interestingly, only Lee and Mat Robinson have never played in the NHL. At the other end, the team has three players with more than 700 NHL games to their credit: Chris Kelly (833), Derek Roy (738), and Rene Bourque (725).
“I think it’s fair to say there isn’t a player we didn’t look at,” Burke said. “We gave everyone a chance to make the team.”
“We want to be a tough team to play against,” Burke continued. “We have a lot of character. We have grit and character and skill. We have players who’ll do anything to win hockey games. This is the Olympic Games. It’s the greatest event we have. A lot of those players never dreamed they’d have this opportunity. We’re a hockey team, but we’re also representing Canada with all the other athletes who will be at the Olympics.”
“Most guys on this team have been told ‘no’ at some point in their careers,” started Desjardins. “No, they can’t play in the NHL. No, it’s over. But they’ve managed to battle and stuck with it. They didn’t give up. That’s their nature of being Canadian.”
The players will meet in Riga, Latvia, on 28th January and have 17 days before their first game of the Olympics. They’ll play three exhibition games leading up to PyeongChang during which time coach Desjardins will figure out who will be his starting goalie and which players will fulfill which roles.
“Our strength is in our depth,” Burke added. “Our defence is very mobile. They’re quick; they can move the puck. We don’t want to spend a lot of time in our end. And once we get the puck to our forwards, we have speed and skill. But we have a team that can be physical and play with grit if we need to.”
THE WOMEN’S ROSTER
The Canadian Women’s Olympic Hockey Team also features: 14 players who won the gold medal at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia; six players who won the gold medal at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, B.C.; and one player who won the gold medal at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy.
“It was an extremely difficult decision narrowing down our roster due to the depth of talent on our team; we are excited to move forward with the 23 players chosen to represent Canada at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games,” said head coach Laura Schuler. “These players have worked hard to earn this moment and we are confident that they will be able to inspire and unite our country as they set their sights on a fifth straight gold medal for Canada.”
The team nominated was selected by Schuler, alongside Melody Davidson, Hockey Canada’s general manager of National Women’s Team Programs, with support from assistant coaches Dwayne Gylywoychuk, Troy Ryan, and goaltending coach Brad Kirkwood, along with consultation from Hockey Canada’s chief executive officer, Tom Renney, and Hockey Canada’s president and chief operating officer, Scott Smith.
“It is a tremendous accomplishment to be chosen to represent your country at the Olympic Games,” said Renney, who was a member of the Canadian Olympic Team in 1994, where he guided the Canadian Olympic Men’s Hockey Team to silver as head coach. “We are thrilled with the 23 players selected and we know they will wear the Maple Leaf with great pride and will leave nothing to chance in their preparation for PyeongChang.”
The Canadian Women’s Olympic Hockey Team will look to win its fifth-straight gold medal at the Olympic Winter Games when the puck drops in South Korea on Feb. 11.
“Canada’s strong tradition of hockey talent is on display here, there is so much talent and depth on this team,” said Isabelle Charest, PyeongChang 2018 Team Canada Chef de Mission. “I am excited to watch them defend their gold medal in PyeongChang and can’t wait to cheer them on.”
PyeongChang 2018 will mark the sixth time women’s hockey has been part of the Olympic Winter Games. In addition to its four gold medals, Canada’s Women’s Olympic Hockey Team also claimed silver in 1998 in Nagano, Japan.
“Women’s hockey is one of Canada’s most successful events every Olympic Games and our Canadian athletes have never failed to win a medal since women’s hockey was added to the program in 1998,” said the Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities. “This includes gold medals at the last four Olympic Winter Games and with a reputation like that, all eyes will be on Canada in PyeongChang. Be sure to cheer on these great women as they make Canada proud.”
Prior to heading to PyeongChang, the team will resume its Esso Series schedule with five games against Alberta Midget Hockey League opponents in the New Year.
The Olympic women’s hockey tournament opens on Saturday, Feb. 10 at the Kwandong Hockey Centre and culminates on Thursday, Feb. 22 at the Gangneung Hockey Centre. Canada is scheduled to compete in Group A and begins preliminary-round play on Sunday, Feb. 11.
Prior to being named to Team Canada, all nominations are subject to approval by the COC’s Team Selection Committee following its receipt of nominations by all National Sport Federations in late January 2018.