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Pat LaFontaine uniting hockey at every level

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The sport of hockey has always elicited great pride in the culture surrounding the game, but Hockey Hall-of-Famer Pat LaFontaine wanted to enhance the experience for players at all ages.

Named one of the 100 Greatest Players during the NHL’s Centennial anniversary, LaFontaine sought a document that could unite all levels of hockey and serve as a written guideline for the sport moving forward.

“Hockey’s greatest values are the principles and life skills it teaches you,” LaFontaine said in a recent phone interview with NBC Olympics. “The real value of the game is the leadership, teamwork, discipline, sacrifice and the hard work that the game instills. Whatever you do in life, you can look back and say hockey was a vehicle that taught you those life skills and values.”

In recent years, LaFontaine worked tirelessly to gather representatives from all levels of hockey to discuss the state of the game and collaborate on cultural and structural changes to positively impact the sport.

NBCOlympics.com: Full men’s and women’s hockey schedules

The first step was defining their objective.

In early September, the committee revealed the Declaration of Principles – a set of commonly shared beliefs that articulate a vision of delivering the best possible hockey experience for participants and their families.

The Principles are meant to serve as an internal compass to help guide decisions and shift behaviors of hockey organizations, as well as players, parents, coaches, fans, partners and all those who represent and care for the sport of hockey.

“One of the proudest days for me was when the Declaration of Principles was signed,” LaFontaine said. “Because it’s the entire global hockey community coming together to aspire to be better and live to a higher standard. The real value of what the game gives and try to focus on what’s really important.”

As for LaFontaine, there are few former players, especially Americans, who have the background and resume to carry out such an initiative.

LaFontaine represented the United States on the Olympic stage twice (1984, 1998). He is one of a handful of American players to participate in the tournament as both an amateur and an NHLer.

“You couldn’t put a price tag on wearing a USA hockey jersey in a foreign country,” LaFontaine said. “To this day, it is still one of the most memorable experiences in my career.”

The NHL has elected to not participate in the Olympics after playing in the previous five tournaments dating back to the 1998 Nagano games.

NBCOlympics.com: No NHL players promises wild hockey tournament

“It is still this great game of hockey,” LaFontaine said. “It is still this great competition. There is still this pride in where you’re from, representing your culture, your country, your ideals. It is going to be a very unique and special experience.”

The Olympics present an opportunity for players of varied ages with different experience to come together to achieve one common goal.

The Declaration of Principles can play a meaningful role in the 2018 Olympics if any team decides to follow the parameters and use it as a resource to help form a unique connection and bond with a single goal in mind.

Exhibition gala closes out figure skating program in PyeongChang

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Without the pressure of racking up points to land on the medal podium, the figure skating exhibition gala is a chance for the athletes to express themselves. There aren’t rules about jumping sequences, and instead, skaters can use props and silly concepts, if they want.

Figure skaters who win medals at the Olympics are typically among the invite list, plus up-and-coming skaters from the host country and other fan favorites.

Here are some of the best performances of the evening:

Ice dance bronze medalists Maia and Alex Shibutani reprised last season’s “That’s Life” short dance by Frank Sinatra featuring Jay-Z for this year’s exhibition.

Ladies’ gold medalist Alina Zagitova performed her “Priestess of Fire” exhibition, which included a fake candle prop glowing on the ice.

Watch performances from the figure skating gala by clicking here 

Double gold: Germany’s Friedrich wins 4-man bobsled

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Two-man? Check. Four-man? Double check. Francesco Friedrich piloted his German sled to gold in the four-man bobsled, becoming the sixth pilot to win gold in both the two- and four-man bobsled in the same Olympics on the final day of competition in PyeongChang.

After tying with Canada’s Justin Kripps in two-man, Friedrich made no doubt in four-man, sliding to a dominant win. The German sled was clear of second by 0.53 seconds. And in second? Another tie on the bobsled course — just like the tie for gold in two-man. South Korea and Germany shared the silver medal.

NBCOlympics.com: Remembering team USA bobsled star Steve Holcomb

South Korea’s medal was historic. Won Yun-Jong delivered for the home nation, bringing the country its first medal in the bobsled. Yun Sung-Bin won the country’s first medal in a sliding event by taking gold in skeleton earlier in the games. Germany’s Nico Walther piloted the sled that tied.

Codie Bascue piloted the top American sled to a ninth-place finish. Nick Cunningham and Justin Olsen improved in Runs 3 and 4 to finish 19th and 20th, respectively.

Results: 

Gold: Germany (Friedrich sled)
Silver: South Korea (Won sled)
Silver: Germany (Walther sled)

Read the full recap and watch bobsled highlights by clicking here