The NHLPA made it clear during the last collective bargaining talks that its members were dead set on participating in the 2014 Olympics. The chance to wear their country’s colors in Sochi was seen as the opportunity of a lifetime by most players.
Most . . . but not all.
Winnipeg Jets All-Star defenseman Toby Enstrom made that distinction clear this week when he informed the Swedish staff that he was not interested in playing for Tre Kroner in Sochi. Olympic coach Per Marts told Sweden’s Aftonbladet newspaper that Enstrom called the other day to break the news.
“He wanted to put all his time and energy [into the Jets] is how he put it,” Marts said.
This wasn’t the response Marts was expecting. He met with Enstrom twice in Winnipeg and came away with the perception that the high-scoring blueliner was on board. Still, he was willing to accept the decision. “All people are different,” Marts said. “Not everyone has the same dreams, so maybe I’m not so much surprised.”
No doubt the Jets will be pleased. Enstrom won’t risk injury in the tournament and a couple of weeks of rest might key a strong finish — something Winnipeg will probably need if it has any hope of making the playoffs.
But this is no small loss for the Swedes. Sure, they have some quality options on the back end, including Niklas Kronwall, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and 2012 Norris Trophy winner (but not an effing god) Erik Karlsson. Still, Marts was planning on Enstrom playing a key offensive role, including time on the power play. That’s not an easy hole to fill.
The history of international tournaments like the World Championships and Canada Cup is littered with stories of players who advised their homelands to talk to the hand when they came calling. The Olympics though? Not so much.
It’ll be interesting to see how this is received back home . . . and if anyone else will follow suit.