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Noel knows Olympics a character-builder, but a taxing one

Posted: 01/8/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

Last Modified: 01/8/2014 7:08 AM | Updates

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So here's an interesting question:

We all know what the players get out of representing their countries at the Winter Olympics -- and how badly they want to do it -- but what do their NHL teams get out of allowing their highly paid charges to play for another team?

Jets forward Olli Jokinen was officially named Tuesday to the Finnish Olympic team, joining goaltender Ondrej Pavelec (Czech), forward Michael Frolik (Czech) and forward Blake Wheeler (U.S.) as the four Jets players who will compete in Sochi next month.

So, Jets head coach Claude Noel was asked on Tuesday, what's the upside to having four of your team's players competing for two weeks in a high-intensity tournament like the Olympics and risking injury?

"I just think it's the experience they bring back. It makes the player better when he comes back," said Noel. "I mean, yeah, there are risks and those things. I don't look at it that way, though... I would just sooner wish them luck and (tell them to) gain as much experience as you can while you're there."

Noel conceded, however, that he will have to manage his four Olympians differently than the rest of his players once the NHL season resumes after the Winter Olympics end.

"It does change some things -- travel, when they get back, how long did they go, how much did they play, when do you get them back. You have to pay attention," said Noel.

"Because really, what is their schedule from when they leave here and when they come back? Because the rest of our group is off -- their body has recovered and everything else. (The Olympians) are into a full-fledged tournament that now they're practising, now there's media, now there's all this attention -- there's no rest for them, so how are they going to regroup?

"You have to be smart how you manage them," Noel continued. "So for example, maybe you don't have them practise for a couple days after they come back."

Jets captain Andrew Ladd -- the only member of the Jets considered to have had even a remote chance of cracking Canada's Olympic roster -- was left off the Canadian team that was announced in Toronto Tuesday.

Ladd said he wasn't surprised when he got a call Tuesday morning from Hockey Canada officials informing him he had not made the Olympic roster.

"There's a lot of great talent in this country and a lot of great players. Me, I don't think I've played up to my standards. So like I say, I didn't really have an expectation to be named," said Ladd.

"I don't think I did a great job of putting myself in position to be on the team."

Jokinen, meanwhile, downplayed his Olympic selection when he was asked about it by reporters Tuesday.

"No reaction really, to be honest," said Jokinen. "It's nice to play for your country, but at the same time that tournament is pretty far away and there's no reason really to think about that..."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 8, 2014 D3

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Updated on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 7:08 AM CST: adds videos

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