Plenty of char­ac­ter

Canada’s Olympic men’s hockey team ros­ter short on NHL tal­ent, long on heart

The Western Star - - SPORTS - BY NEIL DAVID­SON

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.

AP PHOTO

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.

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