NEW YORK – The 2018 U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team is a made up mostly of veterans playing in Europe and four collegiate players.
There’s also one unsigned player, Brian Gionta, who has 1,006 NHL games under his belt. The captain of the team is the only one on the roster who’s played at an Olympics before, something that will come in handy for the youngest of the Americans, like Ryan Donato and Troy Terry.
“As a younger guy, with Jordan [Greenway] and Terry and Will Borgan and some of the other younger guys, you’ve just got to look to those guys to lead the team and take their lead by example and put it into our own game so that we can also benefit from their own experiences as well,” said Donato, a junior at Harvard.
The 38-year-old Gionta has been the one definite for the U.S. roster since it was clear he wouldn’t be signing with an NHL team. He’s an ideal captain with his experience and he knows how important it is to start developing chemistry immediately for a short tournament.
“The Olympics are an overwhelming event,” Gionta said. “When you get over there you’ve got to absorb it, you’ve got to enjoy it, you’ve got to enjoy the process, but you’ve got to go over there with a goal and that goal in mind is to come away with a gold medal.”
Terry, who’s a junior at Denver, met Gionta for the first time Sunday night and came away impressed.
“He’s a guy that I can learn a lot from, just in terms of hockey and being a professional,” Terry said. “I’m really excited to have that opportunity to be on the team with him. I’ve already been so impressed with how he’s welcomed me and just how nice he’s been to me. I’m just this college kid and he’s played in the NHL for a very long time.”
Gionta suited up for the U.S. at the 2006 Olympics in Torino where they were knocked out by Finland in the quarterfinals. He’s also played at the World Championships three times and twice at the World Junior Championship during his days at Boston College. All six times the Americans have finished out of the medal hunt. With this his international hurrah, and possible professional goodbye, he has his eyes on only one thing.
“When you walk out of that tunnel with that jersey on you still have that feeling you had as a kid,” Gionta said. “I’m loving the opportunity to be able to do it again, especially at my age. You never know where you’re going to be with your career. So to be able to do it at my age, I’m extremely excited about the prospect of going over there and winning gold.”
More Olympic coverage:
• Brian Gionta on NHL future, representing USA Hockey again (PHT Q&A)
• USA Hockey reveals 2018 Olympic jerseys