Origin Stories: Team Canada

Feb 10, 2022 | John Klinck


Can This Veteran Laden Lineup Earn Gold In Canada’s Game?

After breaking down Team USA’s roster for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, we continue our deep dive into the field of teams with a closer look at Team Canada.

This time around, we’re heading up north, to see how Canada’s roster found their way to representing their country on sport’s greatest stage. Like all of the other hockey powerhouses, Canada’s management team had a tall task to assemble an Olympics-worthy roster after the NHL decided not to participate in the Games due to COVID-19 concerns.

Team USA went with a college-heavy roster, both with alumni of NCAA programs and current student-athletes. That made the team’s average age just 24.68, the lowest of any of the major hockey powers heading into Beijing.

Team Canada, meanwhile, took a slightly different approach. Their average age is 29.72, putting them on the older side of the roster comparisons. Comparatively, Finland’s average age is 30.44, and Sweden’s is 28.84. Russia opted for a younger roster like the Americans; their average age is 26.36.

And while every single American player played Division-I college hockey, there aren’t any clear-cut comparisons for Canada. The Canadian Hockey League, which represents all three of Canada’s major junior leagues — the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), the Western Hockey League (WHL) and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) — are represented, while some of the roster also stems from college hockey in the States.

The QMJHL leads the way in representation, as six members of Team Canada’s roster skated in the Quebec-based junior league. Both the OHL and the WHL claim five apiece.

Interestingly enough, 10 played American college hockey. Adam Tambellini is the lone player to fall into both the NCAA and major junior categories, as he played in 16 games with the University of North Dakota in 2013-14 before leaving for the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen. 

That means there is a variety of different paths taken in these player’s journeys, as certain junior leagues preserve NCAA eligibility while others do not. All of the players on the Team Canada roster played AAA hockey of one form or another, while it doesn’t appear that any played at prep schools. The variances begin in juniors, where the players decide on an initial path towards the CHL or the NCAA. Devon Levi, a budding star and Team Canada’s youngest goalie by seven years, played in the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL) with the Carleton Place Canadians before joining Northeastern University. Four played in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), three in the BCHL and one with the OJHL en route to their college of choice. 

Meanwhile, Owen Power — last year’s No. 1 overall pick in the NHL Draft — made the decision to leave his hometown of Mississauga to play in the USHL before suiting up for the University of Michigan.

Going even deeper into the players’ backgrounds, you will see that they played in a variety of youth leagues growing up. The Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) is well-represented, as expected, as the storied youth organization has five alums on the Team Canada roster. At least five of the players played in the Quebec International Pee Wee Hockey Tournament, while it doesn’t appear that any played in the Brick Tournament in Edmonton.

Where were they playing this year before traveling to Beijing? Well, nine of the players are currently skating in the KHL. Four are playing in the Swiss NL league. Three are playing in the NCAA, compared to the 15 that Team USA has sent to Beijing. Two are playing in the SHL in Sweden, two are playing in the DEL in Germany, four are playing in the AHL in North America.

Mason McTavish, the youngest player on the Team Canada roster and the No. 3 overall pick in last summer’s NHL Draft, is the lone player currently on an OHL roster who made the Team Canada squad. He played in nine games with his Anaheim Ducks club before being returned to his OHL team. Being able to play in the Olympics is a nice consolation prize, to be sure.

Four players have Olympic experience for Team Canada. Eric Staal, selected as captain of the Canadian club, wasn’t ready to give up on his hockey career after not signing with an NHL club heading into the 2021-22 season…and now he’s arguably the biggest star in the men’s ice hockey tournament in Beijing. Staal was on the Team Canada roster that captured gold in Vancouver in 2010, so aside from being a former NHL all-star and Stanley Cup champion, he also has that experience to share with his new team. 

Forward Eric O’Dell and defensemen Maxim Noreau and Mat Robinson were on the Team Canada roster for the 2018 Olympics, the other time teams were left scrambling to assemble rosters after the NHL decided not to participate. 

You can find continued coverage of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games from the youth hockey perspective on World Hockey Hub! Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube for the latest news from around the world of youth hockey.

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