Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 02/7/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
This is the politically correct answer, the one Blake Wheeler, Evander Kane, Ondrej Pavelec and any other Winnipeg Jet who dreams of the Olympics is supposed to spit out:
"Bigger things to worry about right now... Big game against the Leafs coming up... gotta live in the moment... "
But this is the reality: if just about every kid imagines scoring the winner in Game 7 of a Stanley Cup Final, then the sequel invariably includes an Olympic-themed moment like belting out the national anthem after a win or sporting a medal at the end of the event.
And the 2014 Winter Olympics -- scheduled for Feb. 7-23 in Sochi, Russia -- are inching closer by the day.
"Absolutely, it's there in my mind," said Wheeler, a native of Robbinsdale, Minn.
"That's a big deal. The last Olympics were a huge step forward for USA Hockey and to even be considered would be a huge honour. But the best thing you can do in these situations, I think, is worry about your own team in the present day, do your thing and play the best you can.
"Ultimately, those decisions are out of your hands."
Well... yes and no. There's no question hockey officials from all the hockey powers who will participate in Sochi have already drawn up tentative rosters and countries like Canada and the United States will likely have training camps this summer. And so while those decisions are made by hockey execs, the players can dictate whether they get invitations by lighting it up right now.
"I'd like to think I'm on the radar," said Kane, a member of Team Canada at the last two world championships. "I'm not thinking about it much right now, but it's definitely something I'm aware of. It's another goal I'd like to accomplish. That's the biggest international stage there is. I'll work my hardest to continue to improve and hopefully make that team when the time comes."
Now, the Jets' current roster might not be teeming with candidates for Sochi, but it does have a few who could/should be in the discussion for their respective countries.
Toby Enstrom, who played for Sweden in Vancouver in 2010, leads all NHL defencemen in scoring. Ondrej Pavelec backed up Tomas Vokoun for the Czech Republic in Vancouver, although he didn't see one second of action.
Olli Jokinen, a veteran of three Olympics, could be a leader for Finland again while vets like Alex Ponikarovsky (Ukraine) and Nik Antropov (Kazahkstan) might be again called upon if their countries manage to qualify.
Kane, even with his international experience -- both he and Andrew Ladd wore Canada's colours at the Worlds last spring -- will be in tough to crack the Sochi roster, given the skill up front that includes Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Steven Stamkos, Claude Giroux, Rick Nash, Eric Staal, Jordan Eberle, Patrice Bergeron and a number of others.
Wheeler, who has four goals and nine points in nine games this year and is coming off a career campaign in which he led the Jets in scoring, should be on the radar for the Americans. Team USA iced a younger squad in Vancouver, but also had older vets like Jamie Langenbrunner, Chris Drury and Ryan Malone up front.
Both Dustin Byfuglien and Zach Bogosian, should he play well when returns, would also likely be considered by the Americans and Jim Slater played his checking-role assignment effectively for the U.S. at the worlds in 2012.
And once an athlete gets a taste of international play, invariably he wants more. Much more.
"It's a special time for every athlete," said Pavelec. "I was lucky to be in Vancouver. I've played in the world championships and Olympics... the nice thing about the Olympics is it's not just about hockey, it's about all the other sports.
"Just to be in the Olympic village with the all the other athletes was a great experience. Those two weeks I spent there were amazing. Any time you can pull on your country's jersey, it's something special.
"But I know it's a year from now and it's not official that NHL players are going. So, all I can do is focus on playing for the Jets and tonight."
And then Pavelec grinned, perhaps knowing his last sentence sounded cliché.
"Of course I want to do it again," he said. "Every athlete wants to play in the Olympic Games."
email@example.com Twitter: @WFPEdTait
JETS BY NATIONALITY
LW Evander Kane
LW Andrew Ladd
RW/C Bryan Little
RW/C Kyle Wellwood
D Paul Postma
D Grant Clitsome
LW James Wright
RW Chris Thorburn
RW Anthony Peluso
D Dustin Byfuglien
RW Blake Wheeler
D Zach Bogosian
C Jim Slater
D Mark Stuart
D Ron Hainsey
D Zach Redmond
G Al Montoya
C Olli Jokinen
RW Antti Miettinen
D Toby Enstrom
G Ondrej Pavelec
C Alex Burmistrov
C Nik Antropov
Current Jets who have represented their countries in the past:
-- Olli Jokinen, Finland -- Salt Lake City 2002, Turin 2006, Vancouver 2010
-- Antti Miettinen, Finland -- Vancouver 2010
-- Toby Enstrom, Sweden -- Vancouver 2010
-- Nik Antropov, Kazakhstan -- Turin 2006
-- Alex Ponikarovsky, Ukraine -- Salt Lake 2002
-- Ondrej Pavelec, Czech Republic -- Vancouver 2010
How qualification works:
Teams ranked 1-9 in the 2012 IIHF World Rankings are in, plus three qualifiers.
Group A: Russia (1), Slovakia (6), USA (7), Qualifier 3
Group B: Finland (2), Canada (5), Norway (8), Qualifier 2
Group C: Czech Republic (3), Sweden (4), Switzerland (9), Qualifier 1
The Olympic qualifications (Three separate tournaments running Feb. 7-10)
Group D: Germany (10), Austria (15), Italy (16), Netherlands (24)
Group E: Latvia (11), France (14), Kazakhstan (17), Great Britain (21)
Group F: Denmark (12), Belarus (13), Slovenia (18), Ukraine (20)
(Note: Netherlands, Ukraine and Great Britain won pre-qualification tournaments last November to advance to this round.)
The Oly format:
Same as Vancouver 2010 -- the four teams with the best records (group winners and second-place teams) advance to the quarter-finals; the remaining eight teams will play a qualification game.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 7, 2013 D4
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Playoffs a classroom for Scheifele
Chevy wants to keep it together
Pavelec’s play guarantees his future as Jets No. 1 goalie
Season not over for goalies Pavelec, Hellebuyck
We don't need hockey to make us a team
Sales pitch to hockey players a lot easier, says Jets GM
Jets GM enthusiastic about team, future
The Jets are Winnipeg’s tribal totem
Jets captain suffering from hernia, Trouba from a broken bone in hand
What lies behind mystery Calgary ad?
Jets no match for quack attack
What's next in Jetsville?
Jets taking day off after losing series to Ducks
Difference between Ducks and Jets was huge
4 games, 4 losses: Winnipeg's reaction to the Jets' tragic defeat
'We'll all be better': Ladd
Cheerleader Harper in town
'I'm proud of how everybody played,' Stuart says
GM can use post-season failure to make Jets better
Harper takes in Game 4 action at MTS Centre
Battered Ducks have time to heal
Jets can't fly with Ducks
Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 4, Jets vs. Ducks, April 22, 2015
Proud Jets fans take playoff loss in stride
Fans get excited for Game 4
Jets vs Ducks Game 4 Preview
Ducks find Jets fans spirited, but won't let themselves be distracted
Man behind the Whiteout happy to see it's back
Live: Free Press writers on Jets' pivotal game tonight
Harper launches post-budget tour in Winnipeg, will attend tonight's Jets game
Tonight: Ducks @ Jets
Byfuglien avoids further discipline
Ducks love bad-boy image
'There is no quit in that room'
Buff in the crosshairs
Jets admit to playoff learning curve
Jets coach sticks up for Byfuglien
A defiant Byfuglien faces the media
Fans impress with Jets fever
Ducks OK with being target of Jets crowd