When Team USA and Team Canada prospects gather for pre-Olympics orientation camps next week, some of the National Hockey League’s best players of color and Native heritage will be in the mix to represent their countries in Sochi, Russia in February 2014.
Three players of color were among the 48 invitees to the U.S. camp: Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, from Roseau. Minn.; New York Islanders forward Kyle Okposo, a St. Paul, Minn., native; and Nashville Predators rookie defenseman Seth Jones, born in Plano, Texas. USA Hockey will hold its orientation camp Aug. 26-27 at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va., the practice facility for the Washington Capitals.
Two players of Native heritage players received camp invites. St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie, who is part Ojibwe (Chippewa), will join the U.S. invitees at the Kettler facility. Montreal Canadiens star goaltender Carey Price, whose mother is a former chief of the Ulkatcho First Nations, will attend Team Canada’s orientation camp.
The U.S. camp boasts an offensively potent roster that mixes youth, talent, and international experience with forwards Oshie, Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks, and Paul Statsny of the Colorado Avalanche. The defensive corps has size and nastiness with the likes of Byfuglien, Jack Johnson of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Keith Yandle of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban headlines a deep 47-player Team Canada orientation camp roster that includes Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby, Tampa Bay Lightning sniper Steven Stamkos, Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp and the Brothers Staal: forwards Eric and Jordan of the Carolina Hurricanes and defenseman Marc of the New York Rangers. Team Canada will hold its camp August 25-28 in Calgary.
Among the other international teams participating in the Winter Games, Team Sweden invited Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya to its camp.
With teams able to pick from the best hockey players in the world, some highly-talented NHL skaters didn’t receive camp invites. Notably absent for Team Canada were Winnipeg Jets high-scoring forward Evander Kane and Nazem Kadri, the Toronto Maple Leafs forward who had a breakout year last season that helped the Leafs end a long playoff appearance drought.The start of the camps begins the biggest mystery for both teams: who will be the goalies going to Sochi? Team USA invited six netminders: Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings, Cory Schneider of the New Jersey Devils, Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings, Craig Anderson of the Ottawa Senators and the Buffalo Sabres’ Ryan Miller, who backstopped the U.S. team to a Silver Medal at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.But the most intriguing competitor for one of the Team USA three goaltender slots is John Gibson, the 20-year-old Anaheim Ducks draftee who played last season for the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League.
Gibson supplanted Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship in Helsinki and Stockholm last May and guided the U.S. team to a Bronze Medal. He has a solid international pedigree, having guided U.S. under-20 teams to Gold Medals at the IIHF Junior World Championships in 2013 and 2011.
Canada also must untangle its net. Hockey Canada’s brain trust will have to choose from the Chicago Blackhawks’ Corey Crawford, Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals, Montreal’s Price, Mike Smith of the Phoenix Coyotes, and Vancouver Canucks’ Roberto Luongo, who was the winning goaltender in the Gold Medal game against the United States at the Vancouver Games.