Frei: NHL and Avs will go back to work, not to Olympics, and DU’s Troy Terry will skate for USA

Troy Terry got to model the USA jersey at the Olympic Team media summit in Park City, Utah, last September. His official selection to the team followed on January 1. Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

As the NHL staged its All-Star weekend, with Nathan MacKinnon as the Avalanche representative on the Central Division roster, one of the side stories was where the league’s elite players are not headed in the upcoming weeks.

They’re not headed for South Korea.

MacKinnon and the Avalanche resume the regular season at Vancouver Tuesday night.

They have 34 games in the final 68 days, and that type of compressed schedule is the norm.

The NHL isn’t shutting down for the Winter Games at PyeongChang.

The league has declared the Games off limits for anyone under NHL contract, even if playing in the AHL.

After USA Hockey’s scrambling to assemble an Olympic team from non-NHL sources, University of Pioneer junior forward Troy Terry, from Highlands Ranch, will be one of four collegians on the U.S. roster during the August 14-25 men’s hockey competition.

The majority of the Americans are playing professionally in Europe.

Among Terry’s teammates on the Tony Granato-coached U.S. team will be journeyman winger Chris Bourque, who was 15 when he watched his dad, Ray, tearfully hold aloft the Stanley Cup after the Avalanche’s Game 7 victory over the Devils in 2001; and former University of Minnesota center Ryan Stoa, a 2005 Avalanche draft choice who played 37 games for Colorado from 2009-11.

Chris Bourque of the Washington Capitals skates against the Carolina Hurricanes in a 2016 exhibition game. Credit: Geoff Burke, USA TODAY Sports. .
U.S. Olympian Ryan Stoa, the former Avalanche center, was with Washington in this 2014 game against the Bruins. The Boston defenseman is another Coloraddo draft pick, Johnny Boychuk. Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve written several profiles of Colorado-connected members of the U.S. rosters in various sports, plus an extensive Q-and-A type interview with Terry. All will appear in the upcoming February issue of Mile High Sports Magazine and online hereIf you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’ll be prone to enjoying Terry’s mostly self-effacing comments about his path from roller hockey as a kid in Highlands Ranch to World Junior Championships shootout hero and NCAA champion a year ago.

I was especially interested as Terry described his pre-DU stay with the National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, with high-profile teammates Auston Matthews, Matthew Tkachuk, Colin White and Clayton Keller.

Terry’s story also is about the development of Colorado as a hockey hotbed, too, given his progression through programs in the area and going to the Anaheim Ducks in the fifth round of the 2015 draft. And now he will be an Olympian, along with Lakewood’s Nicole Hensley, a goaltender for a U.S. women’s team that — barring a shocker in the semifinals — will be headed for a gold-medal showdown against Canada.

USA Coach Tony Granato and captain Brian Gionta, who played in the NHL from 2001-17. Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Terry in an early season game against Colorado College.

I’ve covered seven Olympics, and the men’s hockey competitions at the Winter Games have been a mix, ranging from the final NHL pre-participation days to the league shutting down and showcasing its product in the international spotlight.

I regret the NHL stepping away. It was energizing to again see highly paid professionals from the league’s internationalized talent pool so hungry to represent their nations and seek a medal. Plus, the hockey most of the time — especially at Vancouver in 2010, when Canada won the championship game over the U.S. in overtime  — was terrific, entertaining and memorable.

But this can be enjoyable, too.

Some of the buildup coverage has been misleading and even naive about what this evolved tournament will be, and even about the nature of what the U.S. team is.

I know everyone knows this, but I’m going to say it anyway, because Olympic coverage is prone to easy “angles.”

This is not anything even closely analogous to 1980.

That was a U.S. team of  mostly collegians matched against what truly was the best team in the world — the Soviet Union — with some of the best players on the planet. The veteran captain, Mike Eruzione, had played two seasons in the minor leagues after leaving Boston University, and also had attended the NHL Colorado Rockies’ training camp before quickly being cut. The Soviets had beaten the NHL All-Stars, two games to one, in a Challenge Cup series in New York in February 1979. Czechoslovakia also had a handful of elite players, including brothers Peter, Marian and Anton Stastny, before Peter and Anton defected to the West later in the year. (That Paul, Peter’s son, years later could play for the U.S. against his parents’ homeland, Slovakia, was an underplayed story at the 2010 Games.)

That victory over the USSR and the gold medal, secured against Finland in the final game, truly was a Miracle. As weird as this is to say, if anything, the magnitude has been under-appreciated, rather than exaggerated. Yes, after two movies and a gazillion “Do You Believe in Miracles?” references, that’s still true.

This cobbled-together USA roster is a longshot to medal. The European teams will benefit from more experience together, and Russia’s roster — or a team of athletes from Russia in the wake of IOC sanctions — essentially is a merger of the Russians on the top teams in the KHL, including NHL veterans who have returned home.

Canada’s roster includes five former Avalanche  players — wingers Rene Bourque and Wojtek Wolski, plus defensemen Karl Stollery, Cody Goloubef and Stefan Elliott.

I’d prefer seeing the best in the world on the ice, but this change of pace will be worth watching.

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Denver-based journalist Terry Frei writes two commentaries a week about the Avalanche for Mile High Sports. He has been named a state’s sports writer of the year seven times, four times in Colorado (including for 2016) and three times in Oregon. He’s the author of seven books, including the fact-based novel “Olympic Affair” about Colorado’s Glenn Morris, the 1936 Olympic decathlon champion; and “Third Down and a War to Go,” about the 1942 football national champion Wisconsin Badgers and the players’ subsequent World War II heroism. His web site is terryfrei.com and his additional “On the Colorado Scene” commentaries are at terryfrei/oncolorado. 

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @tfrei

Terry Frei’s MHS Commentary Archive:

A Tale of Avalanche All-Stars, past and present

All Aboard! Avalanche bandwagon gains momentum

A kid in Long Beach and his first stick

Jonathan Bernier on taking over the Avalanche net

Nathan MacKinnon doesn’t mind not being recognized … at the mall

Glory Days … Now get Springsteen out of your head

Sakic/Bednar and Elway/Joseph: Eerie parallels

Carl Soderberg goes from albatross to asset

Magazine: Jim Montgomery is Mile High Sports’ college coach of the year

Magazine: Will Butcher is Mile High Sports’ college athlete of the year 

Varlamov playing better than the numbers might indicate 

At the Christmas break, Avalanche is last — but still a turnaround story  

Tyson Barrie isn’t pictured, but he’s in the Avalanche picture 

On this (unnamed) line, Gabe Landeskog amps up the scoring

Avalanche rushing game involves Girard and Jost

And the Nathan MacKinnon answer is… 

Noted hockey pundit Yogi Berra would call this deja vu all over again

MacKinnon and O’Reilly meet again

Catching up with Jared Bednar

Gabe Landeskog has to be smarter, and he’s the first to say so

For Avalanche, winning back fans isn’t easy, either

Horseman/defenseman Erik Johnson up to playing marathon minutes

Ring of Famer Red Miller, Part One: Coal Miner’s son

Ring of Famer Red Miller, Part Two: About those %$#@ Raiders… 

This time a year ago, the wheels fell off 

Post-trade: On Girard and Kamenev

Matt Duchene heads to Ottawa

Stockholm is a Homecoming for Landeskog

Why Can’t MacKinnon do that every night?

And this Avalanche team is?

At the Pepsi Center, you’ll think you’re in Chicago

Is Zadorov ready to be – and stay – a top-pairing “D”?

For this is to work, Bernier has to be better

This isn’t just Jared Bednar’s second season. It’s his second chance.

Sven (The Reindeer) Andrighetto speedily skating into Avalanche forefront

With Avalanche off to another 3-1 start, leadership is a “core” issue

Magazine: Colorado Eagles’ class act in Northern Colorado

Magazine: Avalanche convinced a turnaround is possible

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