Pyeongchang South Korea

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Deutschland Cup roster provides early look at U.S. men’s Olympic hopefuls

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The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea are 111 days away and we got our first look at some of the names who will compete to be on the ice on the men’s side vs. Slovenia for USA Hockey’s opening game.

There were 29 players named to the U.S. roster for next month’s Deutschland Cup where the Americans will take on Slovakia, Russia and Germany. Tony Granato will serve as head coach and Chris Chelios, Ron Rolston, Scott Young and Keith Allain will serve as assistants. Of the 29 players, 21 have played in the NHL and are names you probably recognize.

FORWARDS
Ryan Stoa
Mark Arcobello
Chad Kolarik
Andy Miele
Brian O’Neill
Brian Gionta
Jim Slater
Dan Sexton
Broc Little
Sean Backman
Drew Shore
Ryan Malone
Ryan Lasch
Robbie Earl
Garrett Roe

DEFENSEMEN
Chad Billins
Bobby Sanguinetti
Tom Gilber
Ryan Gunderson
Noah Welch
Matt Gilroy
Jonathan Blum
Matt Donovan
Mark Stuart
Dylan Reese
Mike Lundin

GOALTENDERS
Ryan Zapolski
Brandon Maxwell
David Leggio

The biggest names on the roster are 38-year-old Gionta and 37-year-old Malone, who have 1,653 games of NHL experience between them. It’s a veteran list, with an average age of 31.

“There’s a lot of guys here that know how to play and have been successful players and have found a niche for themselves in their career at various stages,” U.S. general manager Jim Johannson told Stephen Whyno of the The Associated Press. “The Deutschland Cup for us is a little bit to find some separation of these guys, whether that’s pure pace of play or performance.”

USA Hockey submitted a list of 81 eligible players to the IIHF and there is the possibility of seeing a handful of NCAA and AHL players not playing in the Deutschland Cup skating in Pyeongchang. A final 25-man roster is expected to be announced around Jan. 1.

Canada previously announced two pre-Olympic rosters over the summer and participated in the Sochi Hockey Open and Tournament of Nikolai Puchkov in August.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Gretzky supports NHL players in the Olympics

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One of the hottest debates we’ll have for the next four years will be whether or not NHL players should return to the Olympics in 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

One guy who supports keeping NHL players in the Olympics, however, is none other than Wayne Gretzky.

Gretzky spoke with Rob Pizzo on Hockey Night in Canada radio Friday afternoon and was asked his thoughts about whether or not NHL players should go back to the Olympics. The Great One is all in favor of it.

“When we grew up as kids we dreamed of winning the Stanley Cup. That was a goal that if you made the NHL you couldn’t play in the Olympic Games,” Gretzky said.

“So if I had a vote, I would vote to go because I love the Olympic Games and I think there’s no bigger honor, there’s no bigger thrill than representing your country and being part of Team Canada. It’s something you can’t even describe how special of a feeling it is to know that you get to put that red and white jersey on.”

Gretzky was a member of Team Canada’s 2002 gold medal-winning team in Salt Lake City and was also part of the 1998 team in Nagano. While he’s one major figure putting his support behind keeping NHL players in the Olympics, logistics of sending everyone to Korea could throw a wrench in things.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman refused to address whether or not they’ll participate in the 2018 Games and it’s not likely to be decided right up until the Games themselves. One thing that will the possibility alive, however, would be the players speaking up and saying they want to do it.

2018 Winter Olympics awarded to Pyeongchang, South Korea; Tough break for hockey fans?

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What isn’t clear: Whether or not the NHL will put its regular season on hold for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi (Russia) and/or the 2018 edition in Pyeonchang, South Korea.

What is clear: Either way, hockey fans might need to watch games at some strange hours to view these puck exhibitions as they happen live.

In case you haven’t heard, the 2018 Winter Olympics were awarded to Pyeonchang, South Korea today after two failed previous attempts. Apparently the city dominated the competition to get the Winter Olympics, earning 63 out of 95 votes despite only needing 48 to earn the victory. Pyeonchang becomes the first Asian city outside of Japan to host the Winter Games, according to the Associated Press.

While that is great news for the city and South Korea as a whole, it might not be fantastic for the sleep cycles or work schedules of North American hockey fans. The NHL hasn’t committed (nor has it definitively said “No”) to sending hockey players to the next two Winter Olympics, but time zone differences – not to mention extensive travel – could be a big obstacle to deal with. Just take a look at the time in South Korea right now and you’ll see that things might get a little weird.

You never know, though; things might work out in the long run. It would be great to see NHL players in both Olympics, but it might not be practical. Hockey fans should probably give those games a try either way. After all, other international events (see: the World Junior Hockey Championships) are often extremely enjoyable without current NHLers.