Like any tragedy, it gets worse with detail.
Hockey Canada released the names of the 45 players who will compete in two exhibition tournaments next month in a showcase of sorts for newly appointed general manager Sean Burke, who carries the burden of assembling a Sr. Men’s National Team without NHL talent thanks to the league’s decision to shun South Korea.
Here are the Sochi Hockey Open and Tournament of Nikolai Puchkov rosters, respectively, which are made up almost entirely of players who ply their trade in Europe, via TSN:
Forwards: Justin Azevedo, Gilbert Brule, Brandon Buck, Kevin Clark, Andrew Ebbett, Bud Holloway, Rob Klinkhammer, Brandon Kozun, Ben Maxwell, Brandon McMillan, Eric O’Dell, Daniel Paille, Mason Raymond, Max Talbot, Linden Vey
Defence: Chay Genoway, Geoff Kinrade, Patrick McNeill, Maxim Noreau, Mat Robinson, Jonathan Sigalet, Karl Stollery
Goaltenders: Justin Peters, Kevin Poulin
Forwards: Taylor Beck, Sean Collins, Cory Emmerton, Ryan Garbutt, Andrew Gordon, David McIntyre, Jacob Micflikier, Trevor Parkes, Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Derek Roy, Greg Scott, Paul Szczechura, James Wright
Defence: Cam Barker, Carlo Colaiacovo, Stefan Elliott, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Kevin Klein, Shawn Lalonde, Craig Schira
Goaltenders: Ben Scrivens, Kevin Poulin*
* named to both rosters
Burke won’t be limited to this list; Hockey Canada president Tom Renney said Tuesday that the federation won’t “leave any stones unturned” in the process of formulating the roster tasked with defending the gold won in Vancouver and Sochi.
But whatever talent is available, be it veterans in limbo like Jarome Iginla and Shane Doan or prospects from junior and the collegiate ranks, it can’t change this grim reality: the 2018 Olympic tournament will be played without legitimacy — and perhaps to negligible fanfare.
Canada won’t just be without Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid. It will be competing against Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid.
Consider what’s happening in Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto, especially. Can competition between inferior talent honestly expect to sway fans in NHL markets with Stanley Cup ambitions? Just because they’re wearing the Maple Leaf and there are five rings at center ice?
Of course, you would expect many Canadians to set their alarms in the knockout round, at least, and still experience some of the pride that the last two teams managed to instill if Canada succeeds against other diluted entries in PyeongChang – especially if they’re considered overmatched.
But Canada’s roster unveiling will be just one of many sobering reminders (hardly exclusive to the reigning Olympic champions) in the months leading up to the Olympics that the event accepted as the pinnacle simply will not measure up this time around.
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