LOS ANGELES — Connor McDavid was 13 when Sidney Crosby scored his “Golden Goal” in Vancouver, a kid who shot out of his seat and did the happy dance no differently than almost every other Canadian hockey fan that day.
“I was at a teammate’s house,” he recalled Tuesday morning. “We had a big team party, with all the parents and everyone. I just remember all the excitement. It was a special moment that I’ll never forget.”
Today that 13-year-old has a spot reserved for him on the next 15 years’ worth of Team Canada rosters. The only problem? The National Hockey League announced Monday that it would not be sending its players to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in South Korea.
“It’s disappointing,” McDavid said. “Just the opportunity to chase down a spot on Team Canada and be able to represent my country. Obviously, the Olympics is the greatest sporting event in the world and not to be able to do that is disappointing, but there are a lot of people higher up making those decisions.
“The Olympics was always something I looked forward to, and hockey is the biggest sport there, though I’m a little biased in that opinion. Look at those great moments, like Sid’s – those are the goals you dream of scoring, as a kid. To not to be able to have that opportunity is disappointing.”
Crosby has enjoyed his time in the Olympic spotlight, as did players like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Alex Ovechkin. Now, the next generation can only hope this breakdown in negotiations between the NHL and the International Olympic Committee is a one-off, and they’ll patch things up in time for the Beijing Olympics in 2022.
“It’s disappointing for all the young guys in the league,” McDavid said. “(Jack) Eichel, (Auston) Matthews, (Aaron) Ekblad… All these young guys who are trying to make their mark on hockey, they may not be able to get their chance to on the international stage. It’s a little bit upsetting.”
Leon Draisaitl’s spot on the German Olympic team is every bit as assured as McDavid’s is with Team Canada. But the Oilers winger was hesitant to do a deep dive into the topic after Edmonton’s morning skate at the Staples Center, prior to Tuesday’s night game with the Los Angeles Kings.
“It’s too bad. Guys wanted to go. It’s one of the biggest stages in the hockey world, if not the biggest,” said the 21-year-old native of Cologne, Germany. “I don’t want to get too involved. I have no right to make any decisions or anything.”
Asked if he would go anyhow, the way Ovechkin has promised in Washington, McDavid assumed his preferred position as a younger player who hasn’t even played 125 NHL games yet.
“At this point, I’m in no position to make a statement like that,” he said.
At the Kings practice rink Tuesday morning, defenceman Drew Doughty — a veteran of the 2010 and 2014 Canadian Olympic teams — was pragmatic about the NHL owners’ decision.
“I’d obviously love to play for my country,” he said, “(but) I see why the owners would do it, too. They want to protect the players and I guess, in a way, rightfully so.”
Anze Kopitar played for Slovenia at the 2014 Olympics and captained Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey last fall. One of those events stands out above the other.
“I don’t think you can recreate the Olympics,” Kopitar said. “And don’t get me wrong, the World Cup was a good experience. It was. But you can’t recreate the Olympics.”