Connor Hellebuyck was part of the impressive North American U-23 team at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
But Hellebuyck, who had just completed his rookie season and had only 26 games of NHL experience, had not seen the ice.
Eight years later, the American goalkeeper has yet to play in a best-on-best tournament.
“I’ve been waiting to put on the jersey. Now’s my chance. I’m in my prime and I want to be a part of it,” the Winnipeg Jets goaltender said at Thursday’s NHL All-Star Media Day.
On Friday, Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that NHL players will return to the 2026 and 2030 Olympics. The 2026 Olympics will be held in Italy, while France is expected to be chosen to host the 2030 Olympics later this year.
The NHL also announced that it will hold a four-team international tournament in 2025, including Canada, the United States, Sweden and Finland. The Quadruple Tournament will be held in February next year in two yet-to-be-named cities in Canada and the United States.
“We know how important international competition is to our players. We know how much they love their country and want to represent it. “I think it’s a great platform for the best players in what I believe is the best sport,” Bettman said.
NHL players have not competed in either of the past two Olympics. There hasn’t been a World Cup since 2016, and even that tournament featured two unusual teams, with North America consisting of players under 23 and European teams representing most of the continent, with the exception of a few countries. covers.
I want to compete with my fellow stars
Meanwhile, the NHL is reportedly planning a four-team tournament in 2025 between Canada, the United States, Sweden and Finland. It’s still not truly best-on-best without the Russians and Czechs, but it’s getting closer.
In a speech Thursday, Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid said he wants to go to the Olympics “very strong.”
“I think a lot of other guys my age would feel the same way,” he said. “Thinking of the U-23 team and the many players here, Nate.” [MacKinnon]Cale Makar, Jack Eichel, and people like Auston. [Matthews, all these guys that haven’t had a chance to represent their country at a best on best. I think it’s something that we’re all hoping to do.”
MacKinnon, the Cole Harbour, N.S., native from the same hometown as Sidney Crosby, echoed the sentiment.
“I’d love to go. I grew up idolizing Team Canadas and we’ve all missed two or three now, so definitely want to get one in, or hopefully a couple before I retire,” he said.
“We have the best player in the league with Connor and hopefully get another one out of Sid. I still think he’s ageless, so I’d love to play with him and trying to win with him would be pretty special as well.”
Hockey Canada president and CEO Katherine Henderson said representing your country at the Olympics is the “pinnacle” of the sport.
Indeed, multiple factors have kept the best men’s players in the world out of the Olympics, from insurance issues between the NHL, NHLPA and IIHF in 2018 to the pandemic in 2022.
On Thursday, Columbus Blue Jackets NHLPA representative Boone Jenner expressed hope of a deal coming together for 2026.
“I know the [Players’ Assocation is] “We’re working hard behind the scenes in the league to find some solutions, and hopefully we can solidify something,” said Canadian Boone Jenner, captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets and the team’s PA representative. I hope so.”
A day later, it was officially announced.
“We know that hockey fans around the world have been anticipating the next best-on-best international tournament for a long time, and now they can finally see their favorite players in their home country,” said NHLPA Executive Director Marty Walsh. I can see them lining up together to represent them.”
IIHF President Luc Tardif added: “We succeeded.” “This has been his two years of work, and these six months have been even more intense.”
“I think everyone will be excited too.”
Minnesota Wild star Kirill Kaprizov is one of the few NHL players with Olympic experience, playing for the Russian team in 2018 before moving to North America.
In PyeongChang, Kaprizov scored the golden goal in extra time.
“Of course, like Russian NHL players and players who play in Russia, I would like to participate in the Olympics with the Russian team. I would definitely be happy to represent the national team,” Kaprizov said.
The Russian flag was excluded from the last two Winter Olympics due to doping sanctions and the invasion of Ukraine.
Kyle Connor, who was drafted in 2015, is another player who, like his Jets teammate Hellebuyck, is missing out on the opportunity to play best-on-best internationally.
He said he and Hellebuyck don’t talk about it very often, but they’re looking forward to that opportunity because, after all, they’re NHL players and they might not want to jinx their spot on the team in two years. He said he was there.
“I think everyone is going to be excited, even if it’s four teams in different formats, whether it’s an exhibition tournament or whatever format it is, there’s going to be some competition and everybody wants to win that game. “Yes,” Connor said.
By the time the Olympics approach, most of the original U-23 team will be at least 30 years old and will have missed a decade of top-level international competition.
Now we can’t get that time back. But Friday’s news at least moves all of those fanciful Canadian team lines closer to reality.