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HOT CORNER: Countdown to Olympics is on

['Joe MacIntyre']
['Joe MacIntyre']

Spring training is just one month away

The countdown is on for the opening of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Most of the best athletes in the world will gather from Feb. 9 to 25 to participate in one of the 15 sports. Notably absent will be the best athletes from hockey as NHL players will not participate for the first time since 1998.  
That has many people disappointed as most hockey fans want to see the best, but most would agree that Canada has dominated since NHL players have participated. Canada has won three of the last four Olympic gold medals, and no doubt would win again this year with the elite Canadian talent in the NHL.
It never gets old when Canada wins at any competition on the world stage, but the anticipation of winning gold with NHL players has become common. That, combined with shutting down the NHL for three weeks to allow participation, is just not worth it.
Canada has nothing to prove in hockey as we all know we are the best. Canada is the defending Olympic, World Cup and world junior champions. As well, Canada has won two of the last three IIHF world championships, with a silver medal in the other.
It creates for a more level playing field amongst participating nations, and that will make for a great tournament. Canada has just announced its Olympic team, with a handful of former NHL players to lead the way.
Names like Chris Kelly, Gilbert Brule, Rene Bourque, Mason Raymond, Derek Roy and Ben Scrivens make up the nucleus of the team. Former P.E.I. Rocket players Marc-Andre Gragnani and Maxim Lapierre are also members of Team Canada.
Although Canada’s roster is not as star-studded as usual, it is the same for the rest of the nations, which in turn will make for some great Olympic hockey. Canada’s first game is Thursday, Feb. 16, against Switzerland at 8:10 a.m. local time, followed by games against the Czech Republic and South Korea. The gold-medal game is Sunday, Feb. 25, with a 2:10 p.m. local time start.
I, for one, will not be surprised to see Canada in the final!
Can you imagine a Canadian team made up of Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Jonathan Toews, John Tavares, Drew Doughty, Carey Price and so on playing South Korea?

Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights are exactly at the midway point of their regular-season schedule, and they have one heck of an impressive record – 29 wins, 10 losses and two overtime losses – for 60 points and first-place overall in the Western Conference.
No one could have predicted such success, and if they were 10-29-2 it would seem more normal for an expansion team. The NHL last expanded to start the 2000-01 season, when both the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild joined the league. Columbus had 28 wins and 71 points their first year, and Minnesota had 25 wins and 68 points.
Vegas has already surpassed both in wins, and are on pace for a 120-point season. Almost too good to believe!
The Knights are at home to Edmonton on Saturday while next week they face a tough schedule as they hit the road for games in Nashville on Tuesday, Tampa Bay on Thursday and Florida on Friday.

Spring training
It has been a very cold past month that has people wishing for better weather. A sure sign of better days on the horizon is Major League Baseball spring training.
Pitchers and catchers are due to report for some teams one month from today – Feb. 13.
Have a great week!

Joe MacIntyre is a Summerside resident. His column appears every Saturday. Comments and suggestions can be sent to j-mac@eastlink.ca.

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