Team Sweden has announced the first three members of the squad that they plan on taking to Beijing to compete at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom was surprisingly not one of those first three announced by Tre Kronor. The talented center is currently rehabbing a hip injury and has missed all of Training Camp and the preseason so far.
Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, and New York Rangers forward Mika Zibanejad were the three names released to Swedish media.
Backstrom was asked about his potential Olympic involvement at MedStar Capitals Iceplex this past Saturday.
“Obviously, Olympics is a huge tournament and very, very fun tournament to play,” Backstrom said. He would then crack a wry smile and say, “We’ll see how it goes, gotta get ready here first and produce so I make the team.”
Backstrom is a surefire, locked-in pick for Sweden if he is healthy and chooses to participate in the games. He is a veteran of international play for his country, winning two gold medals at World Championships and participating in two previous Olympic games. In August, he was even getting consideration as the team’s captain.
At the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Backstrom was part of a Swedish squad that went on to win a silver medal. Backstrom, however, was barred from playing in the gold medal game against Canada due to a failed drug test and didn’t receive his silver medal until a year later. The failure was caused by an allergy medication given to him by a team official that contained pseudoephedrine, a substance allowed by the NHL but illegal according to the IOC and WADA.
“I’m hungry for revenge,” Backstrom said at a Team Sweden meeting in August. “What happened was really unfortunate. Before all that, I had a lot of fun at the Olympics. You play games and between them and the practices, you hang with other athletes and talk. An amazing experience I’d like to have again. Sweden, as a team, is really good at coming together as a group and a team. We’re better than other teams in that regard. Canada will always be favorites [to win gold], but that means we’re underdogs. It fits us perfect.”
Initial rosters must be submitted by the participating nations by October 15 and the full official rosters announced sometime in January.
Team Canada also announced their first three players. They are Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, and Alex Pietrangelo.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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