July 14th, 2024

Crosby, MacKinnon, McDavid among six players named to Canada’s 4 Nations roster

By Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press on June 28, 2024.

Colorado Avalanche's Nathan MacKinnon (29) and Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (97) battle for the puck during overtime NHL action in Edmonton, Saturday, March 16, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

LAS VEGAS – Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon were on the golf course.

A chance to unplug after a busy NHL season, the conversation, of course, veered towards hockey.

Line combinations, specifically.

Attached at the hip each summer back home in Nova Scotia, the superstar duo – Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche – have only played meaningful games on the same side once in their careers.

They will get another chance in February.

The pair were among six players named to Canada’s initial roster Friday for the 4 Nation’s Face-Off tournament – a showcase event set to be staged by the NHL a year out from the 2026 Olympics.

“He was just kind of picking my brain,” Crosby said on a video conference call of MacKinnon’s fairway puck chatter. “There’s a lot of excitement.”

Also tabbed to wear the red Maple Leaf are Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand, Tampa Bay Lightning centre Brayden Point and Colorado defenceman Cale Makar.

Crosby and MacKinnon last suited up together for Canada at the 2015 world championships.

“I’d love to be on his wing,” MacKinnon said Thursday at the NHL awards after winning both the Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award. “That’d be cool. I think we play well together.”

The event slated for Montreal and Boston will feature six round-robin contests followed by a championship game.

Canada and the U.S. will play Feb. 15 at the Bell Centre in the last of four games in Montreal after Sweden takes on Finland.

Boston’s TD Garden gets three contests, including the final on Feb. 20.

The NHL announced at February’s all-star game that players would participate at the next two Olympics after skipping 2018 for business reasons and missing out in 2022 due to COVID-19.

The 2026 Winter Games are set for Milan and Cortina, Italy. The host city in 2030 has yet to be announced.

“A couple of times there we felt like it might (happen) and it didn’t,” Crosby said of NHL players having the international rug pulled out from under them. “But I think there’s a little bit more confidence with this. The fact that we know a little further out, it’s something that you can talk about, you can plan, you can prep.

“Great for everybody.”

Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper will lead Canada at both the 4 Nations and the 2026 Olympics, while Pittsburgh Penguins bench boss Mike Sullivan will do the same for the U.S.

NHLers went to five Olympic Games between 1998 and 2014 – the last best-on-best men’s tournament.

The upcoming 4 Nations won’t be exactly that, with the likes of Czechia and Russia not in the mix, but it’s an opportunity for many of the game’s best to pull on international jerseys a year out from the 2026 Games.

The NHL last held a World Cup in 2016, an event that featured an under-23 Team North America and Team Europe made up of smaller hockey powers.

The United States, Sweden and Finland also unveiled six players set to represent their countries at the 4 Nations on Friday.

The U.S contingent is headlined by Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews, Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes, Vegas Golden Knights forward Jake Eichel and Florida Panthers winger Matthew Tkachuk. New York Rangers blueliner Adam Fox and Boston counterpart Charlie McAvoy are also in the mix.

“It’s going to be extremely competitive,” Matthews said in Las Vegas ahead of the NHL draft. “It’s just great for the game. It’s gonna be extremely competitive.

“There’s a lot of pride in playing for your country.”

Sweden’s list is topped by Leafs forward William Nylander along with defencemen Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay), Erik Karlsson (Pittsburgh) and Gustav Forsling (Florida), and forwards Mika Zibanejad (Rangers) and Filip Forsberg (Nashville Predators).

Finland’s first six names are centre Aleksander Barkov (Florida), forward Sebastian Aho (Carolina), winger Mikko Rantanen (Colorado), goaltender Juuse Saros (Nashville), and Dallas Stars defencemen Miro Heiskanen and Esa Lindell.

“Some serious skill and some unbelievable groups of hockey players.,” Crosby said. “That’s exciting for a player and I’m sure fans will be excited to see that as well.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 28, 2024.

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