Jake Sanderson accepts Olympic invite, first teens on U.S. men’s hockey team in 30 years

Russia v United States: Preliminary Round Group B - 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship
Getty Images
0 Comments

Jake Sanderson felt bad that he would be missing a handful of games at North Dakota to play at the Olympics.

When he expressed that sentiment to his college teammates and coaches, the star defenseman was greeted with support. It was already an easy choice for Sanderson to suit up for the United States in Beijing, and that made it even simpler.

“It was kind of a no-brainer,” he said. “It’s kind of something you can’t really pass up. It’s the Olympics. You don’t know if you’ll ever be able to play in the Olympics in your lifetime.”

After the NHL decided to withdraw from the 2022 Games, an opportunity of a lifetime was suddenly available for Sanderson, Michigan’s Owen Power (Canada) and Matty Beniers, and other players in the U.S. college ranks with USA Hockey and Hockey Canada eyeing the NCAA for top talent to fill their rosters. College players deciding whether to leave school for a few weeks to go to Beijing can look no further than the 2018 Olympics for some strong evidence in the yes column.

Sanderson said on TSN radio on Tuesday that he, Beniers and defenseman Brock Faber, all 19 years old, were asked to play on the Olympic team while at the world junior championship late last month, and they all accepted.

USA Hockey has yet to confirm Sanderson’s inclusion or announce any players on its Olympic roster. No nation has announced its Olympic men’s hockey roster after the NHL’s Olympic withdrawal on Dec. 22 changed everything.

Sanderson, Beniers and Faber would be the first teens to play for the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team since Scott Lachance and Keith Tkachuk in 1992, according to Olympedia.org.

Beniers, the youngest of the trio, would be the youngest man to play for the U.S. Olympic hockey team since 1984, when the team included future NHL stars Pat LaFontaine (18), Eddie Olczyk (17) and Al Iafrate (17).

Anaheim’s Troy Terry, Minnesota’s Jordan Greenway and Seattle’s Ryan Donato all skated for the U.S. in PyeongChang while they were collegians on a team made up of mostly older professionals playing in Europe. They’ve since combined to play in 611 NHL games.

“I would tell those guys if they got the chance to cherish it, enjoy and make the most of it,” Donato said. “Coming from college, it was obviously a little nerve-wracking because you have all these guys that have played in the NHL and I think it does do a lot for your confidence realizing that you could hang around with these guys.”

Sanderson, a Whitefish, Montana, native, was taken by Ottawa with the fifth pick in the 2020 draft. Beniers was taken No. 2 by Seattle.

Power, who went first to Buffalo, has been invited to play for Canada. Michigan teammates Brendan Brisson (U.S.) and Kent Johnson (Canada) are also Olympic candidates.

Greenway and Terry were U.S. candidates when it looked like the NHL was halting its season for almost three weeks to let the world’s best hockey players play in the Olympics for the first time since 2018.

Greenway said he probably would have gone if chosen, especially if virus testing and quarantine restrictions were modified because, like many would-be participants, those were his biggest concerns. That’s the major difference from 2018.

“There’s also other factors that go into it now because of the circumstances and the situation, which I understand,” Greenway said. “I think it is maybe a little bit more of a question. It’s not a no-brainer, let’s say, maybe now. It could be a little bit different for those guys. You take the hockey part alone and the experience and everything that goes into that, it’s a special, special experience.”

U.S. general manager John Vanbiesbrouck and coach David Quinn believed the Olympic experience was a strong selling point, even taking pandemic and college duties into account. One additional motivation is that the world junior championship was canceled last month over fears of a virus outbreak, and the Olympics could serve as something of a do-over for that tournament for several players under the age of 20.

Still, Quinn realized trying to convince active college players to go to Beijing is not the same as his days recruiting at Boston University.

“These circumstances are a lot different,” Quinn said. “Leaving the team in the middle of the season and with the COVID situation, there’s a lot of hurdles, a lot of obstacles. But I think everyone wants to play in the Olympics.”

Mel Pearson, who is coaching Michigan with a powerhouse roster and a legitimate shot at a national championship, has told players he’s supportive of them going to the Olympics.

“Opportunities like that, they don’t come along that often,” Pearson told reporters last weekend. “We’ll fully support them and look forward to getting them back once they get home with a medal.”

Seeing he’d only miss four games at North Dakota and that quarantine requirements were not nearly as lengthy as had been rumored eased Sanderson’s concerns. He also hopes to be in the NHL soon, and watching Terry, Greenway and Donato play there now is additional incentive.

“You look at those guys and they’re doing very well in the NHL,” Sanderson said. “I think being with the guys and living in the moment there and taking it all in, having fun in the Olympic village, I think the whole experience will be breathtaking, will be fun.”

The NHL announced its withdrawal from Olympic participation on Dec. 22, citing the coronavirus pandemic significantly impacting its regular season. At the time, it had canceled 50 games.

The U.S. is grouped with Canada, Germany and host China. The top team from each of the three groups, plus the best second-place team overall, advance directly into the quarterfinals. The rest advance to a play-in game for quarterfinal berths.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games

Getty
0 Comments

The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

Justine Dufour-Lapointe
Getty
0 Comments

Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!