The bright side to no NHL players at 2018 Olympics

James O'Brien
NBC Sports

Look, there’s no denying it. The lack of NHL players at the 2018 Winter Olympics is a bummer. The World Cup was great at times, but still not a match for the best-on-best tournament for Olympic gold.

One player’s loss is another player’s gain, and looking over the rosters for Canada and the U.S., you might not see great talent, but it’s easy to spot the potential for some wonderful stories.

Last hurrahs

Even with Shane Doan and Jarome Iginla deciding not to give it one more shot, there are some opportunities for players to enjoy one more moment in the spotlight.

Brian Gionta, team USA captain, ranks as one of the best examples of former NHLers who are going for one more moment of glory. As this NBC Olympics profile reminds us, Gionta represented the U.S. in 2006, so he likely also wants to redeem a run that sputtered without a medal.

[USA Hockey announces 2018 Olympic men’s roster]

He’s not the only name you might remember, especially if you follow the game closely. Wojtek Wolski is one of the stories of the men’s hockey tournament, as he goes from broken neck to a chance at Olympic glory. Plenty of former teammates are happy for these guys, like Brad Marchand with Chris Kelly:


Chances for redemption

Gilbert Brule may never shake the label of first-round bust.

The Columbus Blue Jackets made him the sixth pick of the 2005 NHL Draft, one choice after Carey Price and five before the Kings selected Anze Kopitar. Brule ended up generating just 95 points in 299 NHL regular-season games before continuing his career overseas. He last played in the NHL in 2013-14, and barely: he failed to score a point in three games with the then-Phoenix Coyotes.

[Check out Canada’s men’s roster here.]

Not every prospect pans out, and Brule’s been able to ply his trade as a productive KHL scorer.

Even so, how great would it be for him to shed that bust label – at least in the eyes of some – by generating a rollicking run for Canada? These are some of the fascinating, maybe even heartwarming stories that could come from the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Be honest: that kind of beats “Sidney Crosby padding his Hall of Fame resume,” doesn’t it?

That one moment

Speaking of heartwarming stories, it’s tough to top Bobby Butler sharing the Olympic good news with his dad:

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