By Kuhl, Nick on January 12, 2018.
Lethbridge will have representation at the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, as city native and former Hurricanes’ forward Rob Klinkhammer has been named to the men’s hockey team.
“I’m kind of speechless at the moment, it’s just kind of surreal,” said the 31-year-old Klinkhammer, speaking to The Herald via phone Thursday afternoon from Kazan, Russia, where he plays for the KHL’s Ak Bars Kazan.
“It’s just a humbling honour and I couldn’t be happier about it. Pretty unbelievable. I never thought I’d be in this situation. There was rumours last year about the NHL players not going. I never bought it and never believed for a minute they wouldn’t go. I didn’t believe it until five or six months ago and I started talking to Team Canada staff.”
Although his name had been circulated as a potential Olympic player for some time, since the decision was made to not have current NHL players participate, Klinkhammer said he only found out about his roster spot through a phone call Wednesday night. The call was from Sean Burke, Team Canada general manager, and head coach Willie Desjardins, who played for the Lethbridge Broncos in the 1970s.
“I only found out about 24 hours before everyone else found out,” said Klinkhammer, who has played with the Chicago Blackhawks, Ottawa Senators, Arizona Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins and Edmonton Oilers for a total of 193 NHL games.
“It was a pretty amazing phone call.”
The full 25-man hockey roster was announced in Calgary Thursday by Hockey Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee. The team was selected by Burke, assistant general manager Martin Brodeur, Tom Renney, Hockey Canada’s chief executive officer, Scott Smith, president and chief operating officer, and Scott Salmond, vice-president of hockey operations and national teams, with input from Desjardins.
Joining Klinkhammer among the 14 Canada forwards are other former NHLers RenŽ Bourque, Gilbert BrulŽ, Chris Kelly, Mason Raymond and Derek Roy.
“It hasn’t really sunk in. I think once I get there and get to the Olympic Village and do the Opening Ceremonies and all that stuff, I think it will start to sink in a bit,” said Klinkhammer. “It doesn’t get any bigger than this.”
His KHL season runs until Jan. 23, then training camp with his Canada teammates in Riga, Latvia, begins on Jan. 28. The team will be there for 10 days, with two exhibition games, then head to South Korea, with one more exhibition game, before playing their first Olympic game on Feb. 15.
“I’m tickled pink,” said Klinkhammer’s father, Gerry. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him. I’m so proud. He’s worked so hard for everything in hockey and in his life.”
“I am so proud of Rob and all his hard work over the years,” said Klinkhammer’s wife, Jessica, who plans to head to South Korea as well.
“It’s been so much fun to be on this hockey journey with him over the last 15 years and I never in a million years thought it would lead us to South Korea for the Olympics. I am so excited to watch him represent Canada and have our two young boys there as well. They’re too young to realize it now but I’m sure it will be an unbelievable experience.”
In addition to representing his country, Klinkhammer said he is looking forward to the overall Olympic experience and staying in the Olympic Village with all of Canada’s athletes.
“That will be cool to have the camaraderie of everyone pulling for each other,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what event – bobsleigh, luge, or cross-country skiing, hockey, curling – everyone is staying together there. That will be a really cool experience.”
The men’s hockey team is looking to repeat as gold medallist for a third consecutive Olympic Winter Games, having won back-to-back tournaments at Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014. This year’s gold-medal game is set to take place on Feb. 25, the final day of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.
Klinkhammer will look to become the second Lethbridge player to bring home an Olympic hockey medal, following the footsteps of Billy Gibson in 1952.
“Lethbridge will always be my home. I’ll always come back there. That’s where I’ll raise my family,” Klinkhammer said.
“I love the city and I’m proud to be from there. I’ve got a lot of support from a lot of good people. The city helped make me into the player and the man I am today. I owe the city a lot. It’s a huge honour to be able to represent Lethbridge on that international stage.”
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