SOCHI, Russia – Jamie Benn wasn’t supposed to be here to score his first Olympic goal, in Canada’s first Olympic victory of the Sochi Games.
He was snubbed, infamously, for Team Canada’s Olympic orientation camp last summer, continuing his NHL break while his peers played ball hockey in Calgary. Here was one of the most talented young forwards in the League, left off the guest list for his sport’s most exclusive party.
So Benn went out and earned the invitation.
“They were still keeping an eye on me, seeing how I’m doing. I went out in the first half, focused on the Dallas Stars and do what I had to do to win hockey games,” he said.
He was a point-per-game player in the first two months of the season, with 24 points in 24 games.
“It was just motivation,” said Benn, who understood the blessing of riches for his homeland in international hockey. “Canada can put some pretty good teams together. Every guy that went to the orientation camp deserved to be there.”
So did Benn, Team Canada decided. He was named to the roster for Sochi in January; one month later, he scored the game-winning goal in Canada’s 3-1 win over Norway on Thursday night in Sochi.
It was a play started by New York Islanders center John Tavares, whose slight interference in the neutral zone sprung the puck for Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron. “We moved the puck up the wall. Quick transition. Patrice got it and I just wanted to drive the net, push their ‘D’ back. I was happy he was able to come with me and not fade out to Jamie. Great pass, great shot.”
Benn played with Tavares, Bergeron and Marty St. Louis as an extra forward, and the four-man unit might have been Team Canada’s best of the game.
“I’m just trying to keep building. The key for us is to win each shift that we’re out there,” said Benn.
“They were outstanding,” said Coach Mike Babcock. “Two played on the power play, two played on the penalty kill and then they filled in all over the place. I thought they were really good and were one of our better lines, to tell you the truth. I thought Bergeron had a real strong game, Tavares had a real strong game, Benn was moving and St. Louis played all over. Those four guys, for me, played well.”
Bergeron enjoyed finding chemistry on the ice with Benn.
“He’s a smart player and fun to play with,” he said.
So the Snub scores the game-winning goal in an Olympic contest for Canada. Was he nervous?
“The first period was kind of a feeling out process, trying to get some chemistry with your new linemates. But I thought after the first, we played a great team game,” he said.
“I think [nerves] went away after the start of the game. It’s such a great event, great to be a part of, to represent your country.”