For a hockey player, representing your country in a Winter Olympic tournament is an unparalleled honor.
“To be known as an Olympian is a big-time thing for everybody,” said John Vanbiesbrouck, the general manager of the U.S. men’s Olympic team. “That’s why the NHL players wanted to go in the first place.”
Unfortunately, they aren’t allowed to go to the Beijing Games next month. While the NHL agreed to allow its players to participate in the 2022 and 2026 Olympics in the latest collective bargaining agreement, it had the right to opt out of this year’s event if there was a material change in its 2021-22 regular-season schedule due to COVID-19.
Close to 130 games have been postponed, and the NHL claimed that it needed the Olympic break to reschedule some of them. So, for the second straight Olympics, NHL players were prohibited from participating.
Just like they did for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, USA Hockey leadership put together a roster of non-NHL professional and NCAA players. Turns out, the team that the U.S. will send to China will be mostly NCAA players: 15 of them, to be exact. The average age of the roster (25.1 years old) makes this the youngest U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team since 1994.
“These players all have speed, tenacity and aggressiveness, which is going to be the style of play that we build around,” Vanbiesbrouck said.
The roster may be set, but many questions must be settled. Here are six burning queries about Team USA, how it was built and whether it can win gold.