Olympic hockey was never something on Linden Vey’s radar.
Even when the Wakaw, Saskatchewan product played in the NHL he didn’t even really consider it.
“To make an NHL Olympic team is a pretty tough task, especially Canada – you look at the players on that – so I never really thought the opportunity would be here like this,” he said.
Luckily, Vey had inked a one year deal to play overseas in the KHL with Barys Astana and when the NHL and the Olympics couldn’t come to terms to get the NHLers at the game, he remained eligible.
“To be honest the whole time I thought the NHL was actually going to participate, I thought (like) the last few years they’ve always figured out a way to come to an agreement and when I signed in July my thought process was the same way.”
But by November he knew an agreement wasn’t going to happen and he was being invited by Hockey Canada to play in some tournaments that basically allowed the coaches and staff to see who else was available. All of a sudden the dream of wearing the maple leaf and playing for his country became reality.
Vey had to finish up some commitments to his KHL team before he could join Team Canada, which he did about a week ago in Latvia for some pre-Olympic games.
Vey said an easy bond formed between the team because all of them never expected the opportunity they were getting.
“It’s a great mixture of guys and the great thing about this team is guys are willing to put their egos aside and be what’s best for the team … it’s going to be a very special group,” he said.
The men play their first game on Thursday morning against Switzerland, but back in his hometown of Wakaw celebrations of Vey’s success are starting a little early.
The town, which is about 100 km northeast of Saskatoon, has declared Feb. 14 “Vey Day” instead of Valentine’s Day in honour of their Olympic hockey player.
Vey was touched by the gesture.
“The support throughout my whole career and especially through these last couple of weeks from back home have been very good. They’re awesome,” Vey enthused. “Just to see everyone rallying together is very special.”
And perhaps soon they’ll be rallying around a gold medal win, because Vey says this Team Canada should not be counted out.
“Obviously things are a bit different … but I mean, it doesn’t matter what tournament it is, if Canada is participating you always expect to win gold and I don’t think expectations are different just because it’s a different team going.”