The 2018 Winter Olympics are underway, but there will be something missing in these winter games, as the NHL announced in April of 2017 that it will not participate in the PyeongChang Olympics, thereby breaking the streak of five consecutive Winter Olympics containing NHL talent.
Colorado Avalanche players Gabriel Landeskog and Erik Johnson — both of whom participated in the Olympics for their countries in the past — spoke about not being able to play in these games, as well as their prior Olympic experience with Mile High Sports AM 1340 | FM 104.7 podcast host Bruce Pape.
The Avs’ captain spoke about playing in the 2014 games in Sochi, representing Sweden.
“It’s far off from what the normal is over here during the season, and obviously you are with a new group of teammates,” Landeskog said.
“You’re also in a different environment where you don’t have the same routines, but that’s also what makes it so fun, and the beauty of the tournament as well — everybody’s out of their comfort zones and trying to make history and trying to win gold medals.”
In a fun twist, the format of the tournament was changed in 2006 so that every team plays five preliminary games.
Landeskog also spoke about the intensity of the play at the Olympics, “It’s such a short
tournament that every game matters and every shift matters and as a team you can’t afford to give away points anywhere, and that’s the mindset you have to go in there with, that it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to make something special happen and to write history and be part of something special.”
With the NHL not participating in these winter games, many players were unhappy, and “Landy” was no exception.
“It’s disappointing and it’s frustrating, and I think anyone who wants to play [and] wants to play for their country — and as far as playing for the country, the Olympics is the biggest thing you can do,” Landekog said.
In the past, the varied player participation in the Olympics has had an impact in the Stanley Cup Playoffs during Olympic years. Teams sending a high number of players have had worse results in the playoffs than teams who have sent a lesser number of players.
In the 2014 games, Landeskog tallied one assist, along with four penalty minutes as Sweden finished with a Silver medal, losing to Canada in the final. This season, Landeskog’s totals include 19 goals, 21 assists and is a +12.
Defenseman Erik Johnson looked back on his time in 2010 ,when he was in Vancouver for the Olympics representing Team USA. “It was fun, it was really cool to go to Vancouver and be a part of the 2010 games. (We were) one goal away from the gold medal, so it was a pretty fun experience to go that far and play in such a great atmosphere in Vancouver.”
When asked if he was disappointed in not being able to participate this year, Johnson said, “Yeah, the Olympics are a really cool event and not a lot of guys can call themselves Olympians, so when you miss a year, it is definitely an unfortunate situation, but I understand both sides of it, and unfortunately we can’t be there, but we will still be rooting on Team USA.”
In the 2010 games, Johnson tallied one goal and four penalty minutes as the United States earned a Silver medal, losing to Canada in the final. This season, Johnson has totaled seven goals, 15 assists, and logs an average of 25:49 time on ice.
Click here to listen to the full podcast with Bruce Pape with Gabriel Landeskog and Erik Johnson, including what the guys had to say about not playing in these winter games and more, or listen to the podcast below.