Doan, Iginla 'have to have a plan' to play for Canada's Olympic team
Hockey greats on Team Canada’s radar ahead of 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang
While current NHL players can't play in the upcoming Olympics, recently retired ones will be eligible.
That thought has Team Canada head coach Willie Desjardins excited about the prospects of having hockey greats Shane Doan and Jarome Iginla in the fold.
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Desjardins says Doan is on the team's radar right now. He also pointed to Iginla, whose NHL aspirations might shift to an Olympic focus if he remains unsigned.
"Those guys are two very special hockey players, what they've done in the NHL and in hockey is exceptional," he said. "They're both great leaders."
Both Doan and Iginla are from the 1995 hockey class.
Earlier this week Doan announced his retirement after a 21-year career in the NHL. The Alberta native is the Arizona Coyotes' leader in games played, goals, assists, points, power-play goals and game-winning markers. He was drafted seventh overall by the Winnipeg Jets in 1995, playing one season in the Manitoba capital before the team shuffled off to the desert.
Meanwhile, Iginla is set to enter another NHL season after being traded late last season by Colorado to L.A. He spent his first 15 years of his career in Calgary and was a two-time 50 goal scorer. Last season in Colorado, however, Iginla had eight goals and 18 points in 61 games.
Desjardins says while the wealth of experience of both players bring can be a great asset to the team, the only way he would consider adding them to the roster is if both sides felt they could still contribute in a meaningful way on and off the ice.
"For those guys, they just want to play if they can make a difference," he said. "That's how they've been built their whole life."
Desjardins and the coaching staff recently returned from Russia where Team Canada played six games over 12 days, winning four of those matches. More than anything it was a chance to get a first look at a number of roster hopefuls hoping to make the team.
"The European game is a different game. I couldn't believe the speed in that game when I was over in Sochi. It was so fast," Desjardins says.
With that in mind, Desjardins says they'll be constructing a team that can play 60 minutes of hockey at that same high-intensity speed.
'They have to have a plan to play'
Dave King, Team Canada assistant coach and longtime bench boss in international hockey, says management is in talks with a lengthy list of players like Doan and Iginla about joining the team.
And while those conversations are ongoing, King says the biggest factor in deciding whether Doan and Iginla will be considered is if the veterans intend on continuing to play at a high level elsewhere.
"For ex-players like Doan, guys like that, they have to have a plan to play," says the former NHL coach.
"If they're going to play somewhere maybe in Europe and stay active then we have a lot of interest because they're good players. But it's really going to be important for these NHL players that have some interest that they have a plan to play."
King, much like Desjardins, was impressed by the speed of the games the team participated in last month. He's no stranger to Russian and European hockey, having spent years coaching across the ocean. King was also Canada's coach at the 1984, 1988 and 1992 Olympics, all teams void of NHL players.
If Doan, Iginla or anyone else with lengthy and illustrious NHL careers think they can rest on their names to make the team, they need to think again.
"It's very difficult to think they can just come in and play in a couple tournaments and then show up [at] the Olympics and play at a high level. That won't work because the competition is very, very good."
The men's national team is playing in the Karjala Cup in Finland from Nov. 8-12.
Team Canada then has two more tournaments in mid-December to evaluate another group of players. And there's a chance Doan and Iginla might just be wearing the red and white at one of those events if Desjardins and King have it their way.
"They've put so much into our game and when you have people who do that you certainly take the time and talk and see where they're at," Desjardins said.