TORONTO – The door is still open for Jarome Iginla to skate for a third Olympic gold medal, but the future Hall of Famer needs to get moving.
“As good a player as Jarome has been, as good a man as he is, if he’s not playing, it’s hard to give yourself opportunity for a fair evaluation, quite honestly, of what he might be able to do in the Olympic Games,” Tom Renney, president and CEO of Hockey Canada, said Wednesday morning at Team Canada’s Nike jersey unveiling event in Toronto.
“It’s tough to go from zero to 60 as a 40-year-old.”
Iginla was integral to Canada’s golden Olympic teams in 2002, and 2010, where he famously set up Sidney Crosby’s championship overtime winner, but has sat dormant on the NHL’s list of unrestricted free agents.
He has not announced his retirement.
The Edmonton native was invited to suit up for Canada’s national team at November’s Olympic tune-up tournament, the Karjala Cup in Helsinki, but declined. The winger recently underwent a procedure to clean up loose particles in his hip.
Following Helsinki, the next major step in Canada’s roster evaluation is Moscow’s Channel One Cup in mid-December.
If he still holds 2018 Olympic dreams, it’s safe to assume Iginla would need to be active by then. Iginla scored 14 goals and 13 assists — low totals, by his standards — in 80 games for the Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche in 2016-17.
“Jarome is going to have to be playing hockey,” Renney asserted. “It’s one thing to talk about names that could play. If those people aren’t playing….” The sentence hung unfinished.
“We’ve talked to Jarome, we’ve talked to Shane Doan … only to get their feel on things and to give them an opportunity to understand where we are in the grand scheme of things and how we want to approach this so there are no surprises.”
Renney is hesitant to name any locks for Canada’s roster, saying that the decision-makers are still very much in a selection process for their first non-NHL roster since 1994.
“To tip my hat one way or another on who might have the inside track, I don’t think it’s appropriate for a group of guys doing everything they can to make this team,” Renney said.
Hockey Canada’s brass has been scouting high achievers in the NCAA and has broached the topic of adding junior players, specifically forwards, to its Olympic roster with the Canadian Hockey League. The sides have begun to outline what the process of loaning a CHL player to the Olympic team might look like.
But Renney said Wednesday the chances of a junior player securing a spot on the men’s national squad are slim.
“[The CHL] is a league we pay attention to and look at. Personally, I believe it’s a long shot. These are young players, and we believe this is an adult tournament,” Renney said.
“We’ll watch Canadian Hockey League players in due time. We have an idea who they might be, but we’re not really focusing on that at this point in time. They have their own hockey to play. We don’t want to be a distraction to anybody at all.”
With no NHL stars to draw upon, the Canadian men are believed to be in tough to defend their back-to-back Olympic championships.
“We have high expectations internally. We don’t need anyone telling us what we should or shouldn’t do,” Renney said. “We know exactly what we need to do to be a gold-medal winner.”