By Charlie Pinkerton
With players from the NHL being prohibited from participating in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, who might make up Canada’s men’s hockey team was a mystery until the team’s formal announcement on Jan. 11. A few days before, the players who made the cut were notified and told to keep it private until after the public announcement.
When Eric O’Dell heard from Team Canada, he couldn’t help but call his parents in Ottawa.
“I called my family right away. I called my mom and dad back home and told them and they were obviously really excited,” the Ottawa-native said.
O’Dell’s overseas, stationed in the site of the last Olympic Winter Games, where he plays for Sochi HC of the Kontinental Hockey League, but the 27-year-old keeps a house in Kanata, where he and his family spend their summers.
“We love it there,” O’Dell said of where he grew up and got his start in the sport that’s now taking him to the Olympic Games.
O’Dell played for the Ottawa West Golden Knights while growing up in the Carling Avenue area. He said he’d spend time at the Barbara Ann Scott Arena watching the Golden Knights’ Junior B team, or as he called it, “the biggest thing in the area.” At 16, he joined that team.
“Putting on that Junior B jersey was a cool thing; to be from the area and have your friends get to watch you play was pretty cool,” O’Dell reflected.
O’Dell played for two local Canadian Junior Hockey League teams after that – the Ottawa Jr. Senators for two games, and the Cumberland Grads for 34 games (in which he recorded 56 points) – before leaving his hometown after being drafted by the Sudbury Wolves in the Ontario Hockey League.
O’Dell nearly returned to play in Ottawa professionally by signing with the Senators in July 2015, just over seven years after being selected in the second round of the 2008 NHL Draft. He spent the ensuing season with the Sens’ American Hockey League affiliate at the time, the Binghamton Senators, before being traded to the Rochester Americans, the AHL affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres. The following off-season, O’Dell signed with HC Sochi.
At that point he’d never expected he’d be representing Canada in PyeongChang.
“When I first came here I didn’t really think about the Olympics,” he said.
“I knew there were talks about the NHL not being able to go, but I know I had a good year last year but just coming here again this year I didn’t really think about it and it didn’t really cross my mind before I started going to the tournaments and playing for Canada, and once I started thinking about it, it kind of became a reality.”
Prior to being named to the 2018 Canadian Olympic team, O’Dell played for Canada earlier this season in the Sochi Hockey Open, the Karjala Cup and the Channel One Cup.
“Seeing my name on the (Olympics) roster was absolutely thrilling,” the former NHLer added.
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.