LOS ANGELES -- Four years ago this week, Jeff Carter suited up for the Flyers on a Saturday night in Montreal and then hopped a plane the next morning to Vancouver.
Hockey Canada flew him there at the last minute, as an Olympic team injury replacement in case Ryan Getzlaf’s ankle did not heal in time. Getzlaf ultimately was able to play.
Carter, then 25, watched Canada dismantle Norway in his country’s first game of the tournament and packed his bags to leave town. He was agonizingly close to capturing a gold medal in perhaps the finest hour of Canada’s history in the sport it invented.
“Vancouver was crazy,” Carter said. “Just being in Canada, the whole city was nuts. The whole city was buzzing. It was pretty cool just to sit back and experience the whole thing.”
Four years later, the experience for Carter at the Olympics will be entirely different. For one, the tournament is in Russia - not on home soil. And he is actually a part of the team now.
Carter was selected to Team Canada’s roster on Jan. 7 after flying under the radar for the first half of the season. Most experts did not have Carter on their projected rosters. The pure scorer is tied for 25th in the NHL in goals this season with 20.
After winning gold in 2010, Mike Richards was one of 10 active players to not be selected to return. His offensive production (35 points in 56 games) is less than half it was in 2008-09 (80 points in 79 games) which served as the bulk of his body of work.
“To be honest, I don’t think I deserved to be there,” Richards said. “From probably mid-December to just before the New Year, I wasn’t playing my best hockey. I didn’t put too much pressure in their minds for them to pick me. It’s a fun tournament and one of the highlights of my career to go to Vancouver and win gold there.”
Richards, though, said it would not be strange to see Carter represent their country.
“I was happy for him that he made it,” Richards said. “He deserves to be there. He’ll do well over there. He was made for that ice surface.”
For the first time ever since the NHL decided to participate and send players to the Olympics, the Flyers will not have a player on Team Canada’s roster. In fact, they don’t have a representative on either North American-based roster.
Chris Pronger joined Richards in 2010 in Vancouver.
The Flyers’ list of contributors to Canada’s rosters over the years - from Bobby Clarke in the Summit Series to the World Cup of Hockey and beyond - is long and distinguished.
(See list below)
For whatever reason, the Flyers have had little impact on the North American rosters recently. They are still sending five players to Sochi: Kimmo Timonen (Finland), Andrej Meszaros (Slovakia), Jake Voracek (Czech Republic), Mark Streit (Switzerland) and Michael Raffl (Austria).
This year, Claude Giroux could end up joining Canada in the same position as Carter last Olympiad, but that seems unlikely given the tear Martin St. Louis has been on. No player has more points since the 2010 Olympics than St. Louis.
The puck drops in Sochi on Feb. 12 - just 9 days from today.
“It’s exciting,” Carter said. “I wasn’t really sure how things were going to play out. It’s a huge honor. There’s a lot of guys who aren’t there that have been there. I’m glad I’m not the guy who was picking that team.”
FLYERS’ NORTH AMERICAN OLYMPIANS
1998 - NAGANO, Japan
Team Canada: Eric Lindros (captain), Eric Desjardins and Rod Brind’Amour.
Team USA: John LeClair, Joel Otto.
2002 - SALT LAKE CITY, Utah
Team Canada: Simon Gagne.
Team USA: John LeClair, Jeremy Roenick.
2006 - TORINO, Italy
Team Canada: Simon Gagne (alternate captain).
Team USA: Robert Esche, Derian Hatcher, Mike Knuble.
2010 - VANCOUVER, Canada
Team Canada: Mike Richards, Chris Pronger.
Team USA: None.
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