Sledding mishap nearly knocked Canada's hockey coach Claude Julien out of Olympics

·2 min read

Sledding may have an age limit.

Team Canada men’s hockey coach Claude Julien found that out the hard way, and it nearly cost him his Olympic dream.

In a team-building training camp exercise in Switzerland prior to the start of the Beijing Winter Games, the 61-year-old Julien fractured his ribs and punctured a lung after slipping, falling and hitting a tree. He was subsequently ruled unfit to fly to the Beijing Games.

What was this team-building exercise? Sledding, as it turns out.

“We went sledding. It was icy, slid off the trail there with the sled, ended up hitting a tree, and fracturing the ribs,” said Julien on Friday, via Josh Clipperton of the Canadian Press. “Very fortunate that it wasn't any worse."

No kidding.

A strange accident almost left Team Canada men's hockey coach Claude Julien out of the Beijing Winter Olympics. (CP)
A strange accident almost left Team Canada men's hockey coach Claude Julien out of the Beijing Winter Olympics. (CP)

Now, I’m all for building chemistry, especially for a Team Canada that was quickly put together ahead of another NHL-less Olympics, and sledding in Switzerland must be majestic, but was sending your team flying down a hill with trees around really the best way to prepare for the biggest sporting event on Earth?

Surely a team-bonding night over Swiss fondue could’ve done the trick. The only risk there is an overload of carbs.

Luckily for Julien, he still made it to Beijing. After staying behind to undergo surgery on his broken rib and punctured lung, the head coach made the trek and missed just one game of the 2022 Olympics tournament — a 5-1 win over Germany on Thursday. The coach gave many thanks to the top-notch medical service he received in Switzerland.

“The care that I got after the team left was outstanding,” said Julien, a former Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins head coach. “They were actually really pushing hard to get me to come here. They were in contact with our medical staff and saying, 'We'll do whatever it takes to get your coach back.'

“What great teamwork."

Looks like they should’ve been doing the same team-building exercises as the Swiss medical staff.

Assistant coach Jeremy Colliton assumed head-coaching duties in Julien’s absence, manning the bench in Canada’s win over Germany. Julien will be back as the bench boss when Canada takes on the United States at 11:10 p.m. ET on Friday.

Julien won the Stanley cup in 2011, but this is his first shot at adding an Olympic gold medal to his trophy case. Now he has a story to tell his grandkids to explain why he won’t go tobogganing, too.

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