Last September, Pittsburgh forward Tom Kuhnhackl scored the decisive goal in Germany’s 3-2 win over Lativa in Olympic qualifying, giving the Germans the final spot in Pyeongchang.
Washington’s Philipp Grubauer stopped 26 of 28 shots to secure the victory.
For the Germans, this was a pretty big deal. The program had fallen on hard times. A disappointing 11th place finish in Vancouver was followed by a significant blow four years later, when they failed to qualify for Sochi.
It was the first time Germany didn’t make the Winter Olympics since NHLers began participating in ’98.
So, as you’d expect, getting back in was a major accomplishment. And that’s why Kuhnackl and Grubauer were upset in the aftermath of the NHL’s decision not to go to South Korea.
“Obviously it’s really frustrating,” Kuhnhackl said, per the Tribune-Review. “Especially for a country like Germany, it’s not an everyday thing where we get to go to the Olympics.
“I think for players, going to the Olympics is a privilege. It’s an awesome thing, especially for Germany. Obviously it would’ve been nice to go there. It’s just really frustrating.”
Kuhnhackl added he “for sure” would consider leaving the Penguins to represent Germany, but clarified it would be “if Pittsburgh lets me go.”
As for Grubauer, here’s what he told The Athletic’s James Mirtle:
The current German squad has a large NHL makeup.
Former NHLers Marcel Goc and Christian Ehrhoff also played, and the club is coached by Marco Sturm.