Panthers’ Bergenheim declines invitation to fill injury hole on Team Finland

The first time around, it was the Finnish Ice Hockey Association deciding Sean Bergenheim wouldn't be in Sochi. The second time around, it was Bergenheim.

On Friday, Team Finland became the latest to lose an impact player to injury, as the Minnesota Wild announced that Mikko Koivu, one of two candidates to captain the Finnish team (alongside his brother Saku), would be staying home to continue rehabbing his ankle after surgery. Then, to make matters worse, Valtteri Filppula pulled out as well, thanks to a broken ankle he suffered in the Lightning's last game before the break.

The Finns quickly announced that the two holes would be filled by KHLers Jarkko Immonen and Sakari Salminen, which seemed strange, since Bergenheim, who has 19 points for the Florida Panthers this season, was still available.

Had the Finns simply forgotten Bergenheim was one of them, perhaps due to his super American-sounding name?

Nope. They reached out to Bergenheim. He declined the invitation.

But before you think this is sour grapes over being a plan B, a petty way to stick it to his country after they left him off the original squad, Bergenheim explains: he just needs the time off. From the Miami Herald:

"For any athlete, having to say no to the Olympics is disappointing,'' Bergenheim said Saturday night.

"I had to make a decision with my best interests in mind. I really feel I need to the break. I'm happy with how far I have come, but I could take a real step forward after the break.''

It makes sense. Bergenheim actually expressed relief when he was turned down originally, telling the Sun Sentinel that he would prefer to use the time off to keep rehabbing his core after missing much of the 2012-13 season to recover from groin and abdomen surgery.

It's reasonable. Still, it's a very different story than we're seeing with most NHLers invited to the Games, several of whom were nearly killing themselves trying to rush to some semblance of health in time. Athletes like Henrik Sedin, Steven Stamkos and the aforementioned Koivu were willing to drag themselves half-dead to Sochi before common sense prevailed.

Bergenheim, on the other hand, is relatively healthy. He's simply opting out to get healthier. It's his prerogative, but among his peers, it's certainly strange.

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