By Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press on January 24, 2024.
William Nylander remembers the goal sailing into Finland’s net early in the third period.
A few months short of his 10th birthday, he was watching the 2006 Olympic final with his family.
Sweden’s Peter Forsberg worked the puck down the left side and dropped it for Mats Sundin. He quickly hooked a pass back to Nicklas Lidstrom for him to blast a one-timer on the fresh ice for a 3-2 lead their team would never surrender on the way to winning the country’s second Olympic gold medal in men’s hockey.
“I just remember, faintly, the goal,” Nylander recalled. “Lidstrom.”
It’s looking like the Toronto Maple Leafs star, and proud Swede, will get a chance to live the next Olympics in the flesh.
The NHL has missed the last two Games – for financial reasons in 2018 and because of COVID-19 concerns in 2022 – but appears set for a return in 2026.
International Ice Hockey Federation president Luc Tardif said earlier this month he believed a deal for the NHL’s return was imminent.
“If you can see, I’m smiling,” Tardif said at the world junior hockey championship. “Now all the planets are at the good place.”
The Canadian-born executive was slated to meet with International Ice Hockey Federation president Thomas Bach after the world juniors. He added at the time there were more meetings planned with the league and NHL Players’ Association during the all-star festivities in Toronto next week.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, however, said in an email Tuesday night there were no Olympic-related meetings for the hockey mecca, but added “that is and can remain fluid.”
“We are certainly hopeful that our ongoing negotiations will prove successful,” Daly wrote.
The NHL participated in five Olympics between 1998 and 2014. The core issues between the league, NHLPA, IOC and IIHF have always boiled down to insurance fees, licensing and travel costs.
The sport’s stars have made it clear they want to go back to the Olympics – both to compete and grow the game globally. The NHL promised to do all it could to make that happen when the collective bargaining agreement was extended in July 2020.
“The entire world is watching,” Nylander said of the Games.
Hockey, however, hasn’t seen a best-on-best men’s tournament since the 2014 Olympics. Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews and Nathan MacKinnon have, to date, all missed out.
“It’s everything we want, it’s everything we need,” German-born Edmonton Oilers centre Leon Draisaitl said before the season. “It’s everything the hockey world needs. I understand everything around it. It’s not as easy as it may seem.
“You have some of the greatest players in a great age right now that haven’t played for their country in a best on-best-on tournament.”
Nylander, who recently signed a massive eight-year contract extension with the Leafs and is having his best NHL season to date, remains optimistic – and is eager to make Olympic memories of his own.
“Very, very special,” he said. “I missed the last one because of COVID. That’s something you’ve always dreamed of.
“Being a part of an Olympics … a super special thing.”
BERGERON BACKS MARCHAND
Patrice Bergeron retired in July after 19 seasons with the Bruins. The former captain is impressed how Brad Marchand, who now wears the ‘C’ in Boston, has moved to the head of the table.
“So happy for Brad,” said Bergeron, an ambassador with the Kraft Hockeyville program this season. “The way that he’s been handling his leadership skills, the way that he’s grown as a captain, nothing surprises me there.”
The 38-year-old said the culture he helped foster with fellow former captain Zdeno Chara continues on in Beantown.
“It starts with everyone,” Bergeron said. “It’s all of us, collectively, that bought in what we felt was needed to change in order to be successful. We brought in some character guys that wanted to follow suit and do the same thing. It was a trickle-down effect. If you didn’t want to be a part of that, well too bad, you were left out.
“People, as soon as they got to Boston, they understood that’s the way it was.”
SID AND THE KIDS
Sidney Crosby experienced a couple of full-circle moments in recent days.
The Pittsburgh Penguins captain was on the ice when Brendan Brisson – the son of Crosby’s agent, Pat Brisson, who No. 87 used to babysit – scored his first NHL goal Saturday for the Vegas Golden Knights.
Arizona Coyotes forward Logan Cooley, who was part of Crosby’s hockey program growing up in the Pittsburgh area, then picked up a highlight-reel assist Monday against the Penguins.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2024.
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Joshua Clipperton’s weekly NHL notebook appears every Wednesday.