Following a spectacular 3-2 victory in Chicago, a great goaltending performance by Alex Stalock, some pressure goals by Jason Demers and Brent Burns, a shootout performance worthy of note from Stalock, Logan Couture, and Joe Pavelski, the San Jose Sharks headed to the airport to brave what they’re calling a “polar vortex” that has enveloped much of the nation’s midsection.
In the midst of the travel to Nashville, and the warm confines of the hotel, the news of Olympic team announcements has started to trickle out, with the big news coming tomorrow with Team Canada. Of course, I have been hoping that all of the Sharks who are still candidates for Olympic play will be selected by their respective nations. The parlor game (or, “parlour game,” as it may be spelled) of picking your version of each country’s team has become a fierce sport in many homes.
But for some reason, while pondering the entire topic, I suddenly started thinking about one of the greatest soccer stars in history, George Best, and wondered how his situation would apply to hockey.
Best was one of the most dynamic soccer players ever to lace on boots. He dazzled fans the world over, first with Manchester United, then with a variety of other teams, including the original version of the San Jose Earthquakes. For his highlight goal in a Quakes uniform, go here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8wGN5uDaVg
But Best never was able to play on world soccer’s greatest stage, the FIFA World Cup. The reason is due to the way that the teams were assembled, by country. While Great Britain and its larger umbrella, the United Kingdom, produces many of the most successful soccer programs anywhere, FIFA splits teams up into sides from England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Since Best was from Northern Ireland, he played for that side a number of times in attempts to qualify for the World Cup, but given the depth of overall players there, his teams never made it to the tournament.
With the Olympics coming up, and more specifically, with Team Canada about to be named, I wondered just how competitive things would be if Canada were split up into smaller groups, similar to that of Great Britain (ok, the UK). What would it be like if teams from Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, etc. were fielded for the Olympics?
Canada is deep enough to consider such a scenario. In the United States, we have growing pockets of state representation, but not nearly enough to field 50 separate teams. But an attempt to do so for Canada is pretty interesting.
Ontario and Quebec, of course, would have many of the same selection difficulties as Canada itself, but consider how a team from Manitoba might be from the goal out, with NHL and AHL players available for selection:
Chet Pickard (Ok City)
Calvin Pickard (Lake Erie)
Duncan Keith - Michael Stone
Travis Hamonic – Justin Falk
Aaron Rome – Dylan McIlrath (Hartford)
Joel Edmundson (Chicago) –Colby Robak (San Ant.)
Dustin Penner – Jonathan Toews – Patrick Sharp
Ryan Garbutt – Cody Eakin – Eric Fehr
Cody McLeod – Travis Zajac – Colton Orr
Frazer McLaren – Dale Weise – Ryan Reaves
LW Alexander Steen
C Ryan White
LW Matt Calvert
Also Under Consideration
D Drew Bagnall (Roch.)
D Corbin Baldwin (Iowa)
D Brett Skinner (Rockford)
D Chay Genoway (Hershey)
Yes, they’d be better if the injured guys were healthy, and they’d rely heavily on Duncan Keith and Michael Stone to log lots of minutes on defense. But it would be interesting to see how these guys would represent their province, wouldn’t it?
Then, consider Team Nova Scotia. It would likely have Joey MacDonald in goal, and although he’s no Roberto Luongo, he has NHL experience, including this year. They’d have some pretty top quality guys up front in Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon, James Sheppard, Brad Marchand, and Alex Killorn, and they’d have some grinding toughness in Eric Boulton and Zach Sill. But the number of NHL level players from Nova Scotia is lower than that of the larger provinces, so would their fate go the way of George Best if they had to qualify for the Olympics?
I think I’ve come across another parlor (or, perhaps I should spell it “parlour”) game. Have at it, folks!
UNRELATED NOTE: Tuesday not only places the Sharks in Nashville for an important road game against the Predators. It also marks the anniversary of the loss of Katie Moore, wife of former Sharks center Dominic Moore. Take a moment to remember those who have left us, and see what Dominic is doing to remember his wife by going to www.katiemoore.org.
See you on the radio! I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com.