MONTREAL – The final contract has been signed. NHLers will once again have a chance to represent their countries at the Olympic Games in Sochi this February.
For a fifth time in league history, the National Hockey League will give its players a two-week break mid-season to allow hockey’s biggest stars to swap their team jerseys for uniforms with colors a little closer to home.
Some countries will welcome one or two NHLers to the mix in Russia; others will count on a lineup full of them, just as they have since the IOC first allowed professional hockey players to participate in the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
Immediately following the announcement that the NHL would be attending the 2014 Olympics, national programs began releasing names of players who will attend preliminary evaluation camps in August. A few Canadiens players have already gotten a call from their respective countries. P.K. Subban and Carey Price will attend the Canadian camp while Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty have been invited to take part in a similar camp for Team USA. Raphael Diaz will be on hand for the Swiss, while Russian blue-liners Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin are in the mix to play on home ice. A few other Habs players could be added to the list when Slovakia and the Czech Republic announce their preliminary rosters.
In the four previous Olympic tournaments, Habs players have represented seven different countries. A total of 13 Canadiens players who are still active NHLers have previous experience at the quadrennial international event. Two of them have even taken part in multiple Olympic Games, including Saku Koivu (1998, 2006) and Andrei Markov (2006, 2010).
The first year NHL players attended the Games, three different colored medals made their way back to the Canadiens’ dressing room at the end of the tournament. Martin Rucinsky helped the Czech Republic win gold, Russian sniper Valeri Bure came home with silver and Koivu helped Finland capture the bronze. The Finnish captain one-upped himself eight years later in Turin, winning a silver medal in 2006, leaving Italy as the only Habs player to reach the podium that year.
Off the ice, members of the organization have also earnedopportunities to represent their countries at the Olympic Games. Canadiens head equipment manager Pierre Gervais will accompany Team Canada to Russia in his fourth trip to the Olympics, enjoying gold medal finishes with the team in Salt Lake City (2002) and Vancouver (2010).
Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Shauna Denis.
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