Hockey Canada, which has relied heavily on the NHL’s top-tier talent to fill their rosters over the past five Olympics, will travel to Russia in August to put their potential non-NHL Olympic players to the test.
Hockey Canada’s chief executive officer Tom Renney confirmed that Canada has been in negotiations with the Russian Ice Hockey Federation and the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) to schedule games against Russian teams to assess their top Olympic prospects on the ice, with a possible schedule coming soon, according to Tim Wharnsby of CBC Sports.
Canada also plans to take teams to play in two Russian tournaments in August. The Sochi Hockey Open – with the Russian national team also playing – is slated for Aug 5-9 and the Nikolai Puchkov Tournament from Aug 14-17 will serve as tryouts for players hoping to make the Canadian Olympic hockey team.
Canada is also reportedly scheduled to play in the Karjala Cup in Finland in November, while also returning to Russia in mid-December for the Channel One Cup in Moscow, less than two months ahead of the PyeongChang Olympics Opening Ceremony.
Despite heavy player support for going to the Olympics, the NHL made the decision to skip PyeongChang back in April, but league heads were quick to note the NHL could return for the next Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, China in 2022. This year, the NHL will play two preseason games in China – one in Beijing and another in Shanghai – between the Vancouver Canucks and the Los Angeles Kings.
Unlike the NHL, the KHL inserted its longest Olympic break in league history to its 2017-18 schedule, according to RT.com, which was released on July 12.
At least one active NHL player appeared on every 25-man roster during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Canada and the U.S. rosters featured NHL players from top-to-bottom, followed by Sweden (24), Czech Republic (17), Russia (16), Finland (14), Slovakia (12), Switzerland (8), Austria (3) and Norway, Latvia and Slovenia (1).