Three BCHL alumni were named to the Canadian men’s hockey team for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games.
Andrew Ebbett (Vernon, B.C./SC Bern, NLA), being the most notable as the first-ever player signed by the B.C. Hockey League’s Salmon Arm Silverbacks. He led the team in scoring in their inaugural 2001-02 season. The forward went on to play for the Michigan Wolverines in the NCAA and played in 224 NHL games (Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, Phoenix Coyotes, Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins).
Other BCHL alumni that made the Olympic team include defenceman Chay Genoway (Morden, Man./Lada Togliatti, KHL) who spent one year (2005-06) with the Vernon Vipers. Gilbert Brulé (Edmonton/Kunlun Red Star, KHL) also spent a year playing in the BCHL with the now-defunct Quesnel Millionaires (2002-03).
“This team we had to think about when putting it tougher what kind of team, what our identity wanted to be and a lot of it came down to wanting to be a very hard team to play against. The Olympics there is going to be very talented teams there, obviously the pressure of the big stage but we did want to have what we always considered the Canadian way to be a big part of our team, the favour of our team,” said Team Canada general manager Sean Burke.
The coaching staff said they expect to have a very mobile defence, some size and a lot of skill up front.
“But more than anything we have got the character throughout our lineup that gives us that opportunity to play that way and be a very hard team for everybody else to play against,” said Burke.
Although the leadership group has not been named for the Olympics, Ebbett could be a good contender. His two goals spurred a come from behind win in the semi finals of the Spengler Cup. Ebbett also had an assist in the championship game to help Canada to a 3-0 win over Switzerland. It was Ebbett’s second Spengler Cup win, as he was also part of the Canadian contingent that won the event the year before.
“We have a number of guys that are leaders, and every guy on this team will be a leader in their own right. But we will have a group of four or five guys and we haven’t gone through the process yet of naming a captain but we are fortunate we have lots of good leaders on this team,” said head coach Willie Desjardins.
The other B.C. player on the roster is Stefan Elliott (Vancouver/HV71, SHL). He spent five years in the WHL with the Saskatoon Blades and played in 84 NHL games with the Colorado Avalanche, Arizona Coyotes and Nashville Predators.
Canada is traditionally a force to be reckoned with in men’s hockey, winning 13 medals, nine of them gold, since the first Olympic hockey tournament was held at Antwerp 1920. The team is looking to three-peat as gold medallist Olympic Winter Games, having won back-to-back tournaments at Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014.
Team Canada opens its Olympic schedule on Thursday, Feb. 15 at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung, when it meets Switzerland in Group A. The gold-medal game is set to take place on Feb. 25.
· Goaltenders: Justin Peters (Blyth, Ont./Kölner Haie, DEL), Kevin Poulin (Montreal/Medvescak Zagreb, EBEL), Ben Scrivens (Spruce Grove, Alta./Salavat Yulaev Ufa, KHL);
· Defencemen: Stefan Elliott (Vancouver/HV71, SHL), Chay Genoway (Morden, Man./Lada Togliatti, KHL), Cody Goloubef (Oakville, Ont./Stockton, AHL), Marc-André Gragnani (L’Île-Bizard, Que./HC Dinamo Minsk, KHL), Chris Lee (MacTier, Ont./Metallurg Magnitogorsk, KHL), Maxim Noreau (Montreal/SC Bern, NLA), Mat Robinson (Calgary/CSKA Moscow, KHL), Karl Stollery (Camrose, Alta./Dinamo Riga, KHL);
· Forwards: René Bourque (Lac La Biche, Alta./Djurgårdens IF, SHL), Gilbert Brulé (Edmonton/Kunlun Red Star, KHL), Andrew Ebbett (Vernon, B.C./SC Bern, NLA), Quinton Howden (Oakbank, Man./HC Dinamo Minsk, KHL), Chris Kelly (Toronto, Ont./Belleville, AHL), Rob Klinkhammer (Lethbridge, Alta./Ak Bars Kazan, KHL), Brandon Kozun (Calgary/Lokomotiv Yaroslav, KHL), Maxim Lapierre (Brossard, Que./HC Lugano, NLA), Eric O’Dell (Ottawa/HC Sochi, KHL), Mason Raymond (Cochrane, Alta./SC Bern, NLA), Derek Roy (Rockland, Ont./Linköping HC, SHL), Christian Thomas (Toronto/Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, AHL), Linden Vey (Wakaw, Sask./Barys Astana, KHL), Wojtek Wolski (Toronto/Metallurg Magnitogorsk, KHL).