Olympics: Canada sends out National Hockey League castaways to chase gold hat-trick

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"I'm kind of speechless at the moment, it's just kind of surreal", said the 31-year-old Klinkhammer, speaking to The Herald via phone Thursday afternoon from Kazan, Russia, where he plays for the KHL's Ak Bars Kazan.

"More than anything, we have the character throughout the lineup that gives us the opportunity to be a very hard team for everybody else to play against", said Desjardins, whose most recent gig was head coach of the Vancouver Canucks from 2014 to 2017.

The roster includes Vernon's Andrew Ebbett.

In any event, the roster put together by Burke, head coach Willie Desjardins and the rest of the Hockey Canada crew is a mixed bag of professionals, many with NHL experience, most who are now playing for club teams in Europe.

Thirteen players are from the Russian KHL, three from Sweden, three from the American Hockey League, one from Austria, one from Germany and four from the Swiss league.

"When we were interviewing Willie for the job one thing that stuck with me is he said: 'I don't think people really care the level of player they're going to watch at the Olympics". That's in stark contrast to Canada's Olympic champion teams in Vancouver (2010) and Sochi (2014), which were loaded with National Hockey League stars.

The Canadian squad will open camp in 17 days in Riga, Latvia, where the team will spend eight days practicing and playing two exhibition games. He's another player on the team. Canada starts Olympic play in a group with the Czech Republic, Switzerland and host South Korea.

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The 12-country men's hockey tournament at the 2018 Games goes from February 14-25 at the Gangneung Hockey Centre and the Kwandong Hockey Centre. The 2018 Games will mark the first time that Canada will go to the Olympics without National Hockey League players since 1994.

"We've seen our players numerous times".

The longest-term Blackhawks player to make the team was Rene Bourque, who is now playing for Djurgardens IF in the Swedish Hockey League. "There'll be a gold-medal effort and there won't be one guy that puts on that jersey that this isn't the highlight of their hockey career and the highlight of their family's career".

Historically, the Olympic games has lent itself to some of the most iconic moments in the history of hockey.

"I think all hockey fans are looking at it as a bit of an unknown".

"A lot like other Canadians, they've managed to battle it and fight back". "And I just wanted to do everything I could to be a part of that team". And Canadians can be behind them every step of the way.

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