Plenty of character
Canada’s Olympic men’s hockey team roster short on NHL talent, long on heart
A year ago, Canadian forward Wojtek Wolski was in a hospital bed recovering from surgery on a broken neck. Today, he is an Olympian.
“I look at the picture of me in the hospital and can’t help but cry,” the 31-year-old winger said via social media. “Mostly tears of happiness, but I am filled with so many emotions about what I have overcome. I could never have imagined that I would be so lucky one year later.”
Wolski suffered two broken cervical vertebrae, spinal cord trauma and a concussion when he crashed headfirst into the boards in October 2016 in a KHL game in Russia.
“That’s what our team’s about. It’s about guys that have received a ‘No’ but found a way to make a ‘Yes,”’ said head coach Willie Desjardins. “Their determination and their heart is incredible.”
In the absence of stars from the NHL, Team Canada will ice a hockey team long on heart at the Pyeongchang Olympics. Hockey Canada drew talent from seven different leagues across North America and Europe before settling on a 25-man roster that has more than 5,500 NHL games under its belt.
“When we go to these Olympics, this team will make Canada proud,” said GM Sean Burke. “There’ll be a gold-medal effort and there won’t be one guy that puts that jersey that this isn’t the highlight of their hockey career and the highlight of their family’s career.”
While other teams will undoubtedly have their own stories to tell, Canada’s character will show when things get tough at the tournament, Desjardins and Burke added.
“We’re going to draw on that but we also know that to win hockey games, we’re going to need big performances, we’re going to need guys who come into the Olympics and seize the moment,” said Burke.
The bulk of the NHL experience comes from seven forwards with some familiar names.
Chris Kelly, who won the 2011 Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins, leads the way with 833 regular-season games in the NHL. Most recently, the 37-yearold, who has 123 NHL goals and 166 assists, signed a tryout contract with Belleville of the AHL.
Derek Roy played 738 NHL games for Buffalo, Dallas, Vancouver, St. Louis, Nashville and Edmonton with 189 goals and 335 assists. Rene Bourque played 725 NHL games, notching 163 goals and 153 assists for six teams including Calgary and Montreal.
Maxim Lapierre played 614 NHL games for Montreal, Anaheim, Vancouver, St. Louis and Pittsburgh. Mason Raymond saw action in 546 NHL games with Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Anaheim.
Wolski played in 451 games, accumulating 99 goals and 168 assists for Colorado, Phoenix, the New York Rangers, Florida and Washington.
Gilbert Brule saw action in 299 games with Edmonton and two other clubs.
See Scoreboard on page 10 for full Canadian team roster.
Washington Capitals’r Wojtek Wolski tries to control the puck as he skates around New York Islanders’ Thomas Hickey during an NHL game at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., Saturday, March 9, 2013. Wolski is among the former NHL veterans named to Canada’s men’s Olympic hockey team.