Absent NHLers translates into Olympic dream realized for former Sens rival

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Derek Roy playing for Team Canada. Photo: Hockey Canada.

By Charlie Pinkerton

Derek Roy hasn’t represented an Ottawa hockey team since well before his NHL days, but when discussing his path to making Canada’s Olympic team, the Rockland-native is most enthusiastic talking about playing in the nation’s capital in his youth.

As a child, Roy played for teams in Vanier and Clarence Creek, including the Cumberland Barons before the team turned into the Eastern Ontario Cobras, with which he won a Bantam AA championship.

“We’d have all our friends come to the games to support us. The arena was always packed when we were playing,” Roy remembers.

The team played their home games at Jean-Marc Lalonde Arena, across from Roy’s old high school, École secondaire catholique L’Escale.

“It was really a cool experience at that time to have a couple hundred people come out and watch us play. That was huge when you’re 14 or 15 years old.”

Roy said through his days in junior hockey, which he spent entirely with the Kitchener Rangers, and onward into the NHL, that playing back in Ottawa was always special.

“It would be really special to see all your friends and family after the game, or even if you score to look up in the crowd and see a section cheering for you when everyone else is quiet,” Roy said.

Roy played in the NHL from 2003-2015, excluding the 2004-05 season, which the whole league missed due to a lockout. He spent the majority of his seasons playing for the Buffalo Sabres, the team that drafted him in the second round of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft.

While playing for the Sabres and in the midst of his fourth straight 60+ point season, Roy attended Team Canada’s Olympics selection camp. But he wouldn’t be named to Canada’s team. That team won a gold medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

“I didn’t think I would ever play in the Olympics (after that),” he said with a laugh. “I never thought about having another chance at it. That was a great opportunity; I was in my prime playing well, and to not make it was obviously devastating.”

The next season, while leading the Sabres in points with 35 in 35 games, he tore his left quadriceps tendon. That was the end of his year, and his next season would be his last in Buffalo.

After stints in Dallas, Vancouver, St. Louis, Nashville and Edmonton, Roy found himself in Washington’s camp prior to the 2015-16 season. He was unable to crack the Capitals roster and instead signed with Schlittschuh Club Bern of the National League in Switzerland. The team won a league championship with Roy who averaged close to a point-per-game (42 in 49 games, including the playoffs).

“I was just worried about my team there. The Olympics weren’t even in my mind at that time,” Roy said.

During the next season the rumblings over whether NHL players would attend the Olympics emerged.

“At that point that became a goal for sure,” Roy added.

Two years later, the 34-year-old who now plays for Linköping Hockey Club in the Swedish League, has realized his Olympic dream after impressing Hockey Canada with his play on the national team earlier this season in the 2017 Tournament of Nikolai Puchkov and 2017 Channel One Cup.

He’ll join the men’s Olympic team in Latvia for the team’s training camp towards the end of the month. When the team takes the ice in Pyeongchang, supporting Roy in the crowd will be a collection of his friends and family, including his parents, making the trip from his childhood home in Rockland.

“For them to take the time out of their schedule and fly across the world and watch me play is on like they have their whole lives is obviously a cool feeling,” Roy added.

Event times

Thu., Feb. 15 CAN vs SUI 7 a.m. ET

Fri., Feb. 16 CAN vs CZE 10 p.m.

Sun., Feb. 18 CAN vs KOR 7 a.m.

Mon., Feb. 19 Qualification playoffs-10p.m.

Tue., Feb. 20 Quarter-finals 10 p.m.

Fri., Feb. 23 Semi-finals 2:30 & 7 a.m.

Sat., Feb. 24 Bronze 7 a.m.

Sat., Feb. 24 Gold 11 p.m.

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