FRANCIS: Canada's players have persevered en route to Olympic opportunity

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He'll be joined by several other familiar faces in Vancouver, including former Canucks Maxim Lapierre and Mason Raymond, as well as former Vancouver Giant turned Edmonton Oiler Gilbert Brulé. In this case, more than half of Team Canada's roster would be affected, but general manager Sean Burke has said he expects full access to Canadians playing in the KHL. Then there's 18-year-old Joey Lamoreaux, who is playing in the U.S. Hockey League.

As NBC Olympic Talk's Nick Zaccardi noted, 23 of 25 Canadian players have National Hockey League experience, compared to 15 of the 23 announced on the USA roster.

Most players are not household names to Canadians.

"We're going to draw on that but we also know that to win hockey games, we're going to need big performances, we're going to need guys who come into the Olympics and seize the moment", said Burke. "It will be a gold medal effort, and there won't be one guy who puts his jersey on that this isn't the highlight of his hockey career".

His KHL season runs until January 23, then training camp with his Canada teammates in Riga, Latvia, begins on January 28.

According to Elliott's fiancée, Katie Cairns, the former NHLer was gunning for a spot on the Olympic team for months as it became clear the players from the league wouldn't be making the trip.

The NHL said previous year it would not release players after for the Games after failing to reach a deal with the International Olympic Committee to cover players' travel and insurance costs.

Rather than slapping the team together at the last minute and right into competition, general manager Sean Burke and coach Willie Desjardins will have the opportunity for a mini training camp before Canada opens play in PyeongChang against Switzerland on February 15.

Jussi Nukari  Lehtikuva FilesOakbank's Quinton Howden is playing with Minsk Dynamo of the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia this season. Howden has 15 goals and 14 assists in 49 KHL games
FRANCIS: Canada's players have persevered en route to Olympic opportunity

Belleville Senators forward Chris Kelly has been around long enough to recall the last time National Hockey League players weren't at the Olympics.

One he didn't think was possible until he was invited to one of the Canadian tryout camps in November, when they played the Swiss team in Switzerland and took part in a tournament in Finland.

With that in mind, Burke and company set about building a team they felt could compete against a variety of opponents.

As a result, the United States will be pinning their gold medal hopes on a group that includes former NHLers along with players from Europe, college and the US minor leagues.

"I think all hockey fans are looking at it as a bit of an unknown".

Here's a link to Canada's roster. "We had a lot of players play extremely well for us this year".

None of this has been easy for anyone involved, given the "moving target" Hockey Canada prez Tom Renney reminded people of the soap opera that saw the International Olympic Committee and NHL part ways.

"I love the hunger of our team".

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