When’s the next time we’ll see best on best international hockey?
Doug Armstrong is stepping down as general manager of Canada’s Olympic men’s hockey team after it was officially announced on Wednesday that NHL players would not be competing at the 2022 Games in Beijing.
“Yes, with the Olympics being played now with non-NHL players, Scott Salmond and his group will find appropriate guys to go represent Canada,” Armstrong told Pierre LeBrun in The Athletic, adding he wishes the group nothing but the best.
“I’m disappointed for the players because they’re the ones that put all the effort into it,” Armstrong said.
“When you’re talking to them, you see how important the Olympics are to them, it just stokes your fire to work harder for them.”
The league and NHL Players’ Association announced their decision to skip Beijing on Wednesday. The previously scheduled Olympic break will now be used to make up games postponed by COVID-19 this season, which currently sits at 50.
The NHLPA added it is expecting NHL players to return to the Games in the 2026 Milano Cortina Olympics.
Armstrong, who also serves as GM of the St. Louis Blues, said he and his staff, which also included Salmond, Ken Holland, Don Sweeney, Roberto Luongo and Ron Francis, were mostly done picking Canada’s men’s Olympic roster, with three full forward lines and two defensive pairings locked in.
Armstrong said the most fluid part of the team to be selected was the goaltending group, adding that Carey Price would have had a spot if the Montreal Canadiens star felt he was ready to participate.
An official roster was set to be unveiled on Jan. 12 and Canada’s management group was scheduled to have a call on Boxing Day to further lock in team selections.
Armstrong told LeBrun that Sidney Crosby would have been named team captain in a decision that was made some time ago.
“When we got our management staff named, the first decision we made was to reach out to Sidney and let him know that we would love him to be our captain; this was well over a year ago,’’ Armstrong said. “And we told him we would keep him in the process. He had been there, done that. One of the elite players of all time.”
Armstrong added that Crosby was looking forward to playing with the NHL’s next generation of stars as the NHL did not go to the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
“I think he was really excited to be the Scott Niedermayer to Sidney Crosby [from the 2010 Olympics] this time around to a Connor McDavid or a Nathan MacKinnon,” Armstrong said.
Hypothetically, if the Beijing Olympics were to be pushed back a year because of a surge in COVID-19 cases worldwide and NHL participation became a possibility again, LeBrun writes that Armstrong would be interested in returning as GM again if the position was offered to him.
“And that’s the great thing about working with Hockey Canada, for me I learn way more than I give. Because they’re the best of the best,” he said.