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No NHL But Ex-Kings, Ducks Still Represent Canada at Olympics

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I always love me some international hockey. When I was a kid, I was awestruck by the all-star teams that were assembled with players from the NHL and from the European leagues to represent their countries for the Canada Cup, (now World Cup of Hockey), since the NHL didn’t allow it’s players to play at the Winter Olympic games. The IOC didn’t allow professional players to play at their games either, as the reason being at the time was that the games were only meant for amateurs to compete in. So the Canada Cup it was, and there was some amazing games and historical series played in these tournaments. The two best, in my opinion, was the 1987 and 1996 editions. The best-of 3 games final in ’87 between Team Canada, led by (future Los Angeles King) Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier, future (LA King) Paul Coffey and Ray Bourque, against The Soviet Union, led by Vladimir Krutov, (future San Jose Shark, but who cares about them) Sergei Makarov, (future Shark) Igor Larionov, (better known as the ‘KLM Line’),  Slava Fetisov, and (future Mighty Duck) Alexi Kasatonov, was a high paced, back and forth masterpiece of breathtaking hockey, edge of your seat tension and drama, and (no spoilers), an epic ending that could be symbolized as a passing of the torch, (as in the best player in the world, not the Olympic torch). Oh and all three games ended with a 6-5 score, with games 1 & 2 going into overtime and double overtime. (Just classic!) The 1996 World Cup of Hockey also had thrilling hockey that saw a Team USA that was three quarters in their prime, dominate and win the whole tournament including defeating a poorly selected, arrogant and aging Team Canada, led by Brett Hull, Keith Tkachuk, Mike Modano, Tony Amonte, future King Adam Deadmarsh, Chris Chelios, Brian Leetch and (MVP and idol to Jonathan Quick), Mike Richter, which so far is the only ‘best on best’ tournament that the Americans have won, (remember that the ‘Miracle on Ice’ at the 1980 Olympics wasn’t a ‘Best on Best’ tournament, but more on that later).

(photo credit to the hockey news)

 

(CP Photo 1996 -Tom Hanson)

After the 1996 World Cup of Hockey had ended, the NHL and IOC had finally come to an agreement (thanks to the NBA, who for the 1992 Summer Olympic games in Barcalona, Spain, it’s professional players were allowed to participate in it, (the original Dream Team baby! And by ‘Dream Team’, I mean ‘Magic’ Johnson, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird, not Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine, Brutus Beefcake and Dino Bravo or Johnny V.), that allowed the professional NHL players to participate, starting with the 1998 Nagano Winter games, (well, it was about time), making the ‘best on best’ concept now an Olympic thing, (which made the World Cup of Hockey an afterthought, even though there was still one played in 2004 (won by Canada by the way), but most people have forgotten it, (including Canadians).

(This ‘Dream Team!’ – Getty images)

 

(Not this ‘Dream Team’. – Getty Images)

From 1998 to 2014, some of the greatest international hockey ever played was showcased at the Olympic games where the whole winter world was watching, as the best NHL’ers (aka the ‘Best in the World’), were battling it out with each other over a two week period (which made the NHL shut itself down in that time frame, something that the NHL Commissioner and GM’s were not happy about), in hopes of winning the prestigious Olympic Gold Medal. Former, at the time and future representatives of the LA Kings and Anaheim Ducks have had a strong history of participating in the winter Olympics and representing Canada since the NHL’s involvment, as it was in 2002 with a Gold Medal victory (over Team USA), with future Ducks’ Scott Niedermayer & Chris Pronger, Ducks’ Captain at the time Paul Kariya, former Kings’ Captain Rob Blake, future Kings Jarome Iginla & Ryan Smyth, and the Canadian National Team Executive Director and former King, Wayne Gretzky, and then some more Gold Medal Victories in 2010 (over Team USA) & 2014 (over Team Sweden), with Iginla on the roster again (but just for 2010), future King Mike Richards (just 2010), current Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf & Corey Perry, and current Kings’ Drew Doughty & Jeff Carter.

(Julio Cortez/The Associated Press)

But starting with this current 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, the NHL has decided to not get involved, mostly because of money that the NHL felt that they should have received from the IOC due to the ratings boost the Olympics got because of the NHL player’s involvement, as well as for the expensive insurance and travel that the NHL had to cover themselves for an event that wasn’t theirs, which the Canada/World Cup of Hockey was. Therefore the NHL and NHLPA could make some serious cash by controlling the Canada/World Cups, which made more sense to them then to send the Olympics their best players all around the world, and not only have them possibly get hurt, but to receive no residuals in any form in return. For example, the NHL wasn’t even allowed to have access of the footage of all the Olympic hockey games and tournaments that used their own players, because the IOC just flat out refused to give them the rights to them. This is why there are no highlight Blu-Rays or DVD’s of the 1998 or 2014 winter tournaments. (Side-note – the NHL were allowed access and did get the rights to use the footage of the 2002 and 2010 Olympic game, due to them being played in North America, (Salt Lake City, Utah & Vancouver, B.C.), as CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada and NBC sports were the ones who shot and broadcasted those games).

So with no NHL participation at the Olympics, theese winter games are no longer ‘best on best’, which is why we saw the World Cup of Hockey return in 2016, (which I got to cover LIVE for CaliSports News and it was a lot of fun, but let’s be honest. It was missing a certain something. It didn’t have the magical atmosphere, the grand scale or the patriotic ‘razz maa tazz’ that the Olympics provided). But this shouldn’t mean that these Olympics and it’s hockey tournament isn’t worth watching. Even before the NHL was involved starting in 1998, there had already been some magical and historical Olympic hockey victories, battles and competition, none finer then the 1980 ‘Miracle on Ice’ in Lake Placid, NY, when an amateur American National team, (who had some future NHL’ers on the roster such as future LA King Neal BrotenMike Ramsey, Dave Christian, Ken Morrow and more), surprised the whole world by chopping down the mighty (and professionally experienced) favorites of those games, the National Soviet Union team, in the semi-finals! That victory led the Americans to the final where they won the Gold Medal against Team Finland. To this day, the ‘Miracle on Ice’ is still the greatest Olympic hockey moment of all-time, (for Canadians, it would be the Sidney Crosby ‘Golden Goal’ in 2010, but as great as that was, (and it was great!), as mentioned above, that was a ‘best on best’ tournament, or in other words, professionals vs professionals on an even playing field. The Lake Placid Olympic winning USA team were not professionals (yet), but they beat professionals and the reigning champs in the Russians, which I believe makes it a greater achievement. (It still gives me goosebumps just thinking about it and I’m Canadian! So epic!)

(Sports Illustrated)

The NHL might not be involved anymore, but there are still some SoCal connections of former Los Angeles Kings’ & Anaheim Ducks’ players and prospects that are playing for their countries in these South Korean Olympic games, (like for Team Canada as this article will focus on. Check out Rebbi Rabb’s article about the SoCal connection for Team USA!). Sure the rosters don’t pop like they did with the who’s who of the NHL on them, but national pride is still in play, so why not still watch this competitive tournament and support our countries and stress and cheer on these former players of our beloved SoCal NHL teams, as they represent and try to achieve their dream of becoming Olympic champions.

Here are the players on the 2018 Olympic Canadian National Team that had connections to the Los Angeles Kings.

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