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September 19, 2017

Legends of Team Canada: Allain Roy

One would think Canada's chances of winning a gold medal at an Olympics in 1990s would be pretty good if a goalie with the last name Roy was on the team.

It did not work out that way in 1998 or in 1994.

In 1998, of course, Patrick Roy backstopped a Canadian Dream Team in the first ever NHL Olympics, however the team lost the bronze medal game and went home empty handed.

The 1994 won the silver medal, and they did that with no NHL superstars. They had a goalie named Allain Roy donning the pads and mask.

Allain Roy - who is of no relation to Patrick Roy - may have won a silver medal, but he never got to play in the Olympics. Neither did Manny Legace, as both goalies backed up starter Corey Hirsch who played every minute of every game.

In fact Allain Roy never played a minute of action for Team Canada that entire season. He had been brought in from Jokerit of Finland where he had been playing.

Roy was brought in to basically serve as the third goalie in case of injury. He had previously played the 1992-93 season with the Canadian national team.

Before that he led Harvard the NCAA championship and was an all star goaltender while majoring in history.

Roy briefly played at low levels of minor leagues and even had a short call up to the Winnipeg Jets but he never played in the NHL.

He settled in the St. Louis area and became a prominent NHL player's agent.

Legends of Team Canada: Chris Felix

The two most season performers for the 1988 Canadian Olympic hockey team were defensemen Trent Yawney and Chris Felix. They had both fully committed to the Canadian national team program way back in 1985, with Serge Roy joining shortly thereafter, and remained right through the entirety of the Calgary Olympics.
Felix was from Bramalea, Ontario and was a two time OHL all star with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.  In his final year of junior the defenseman scored 29 goals and 101 points and helped his team achieve a record 33-0 win streak. Yet somehow he was never drafted by a NHL team.
So Felix jumped to Dave King's national team program and became one of the team's steadiest performers playing well over 200 international matches in his tenure. 
His ice time was limited by the time the Olympics finally arrived. NHL veterans Randy Gregg and Tim Watters - both previous Olympians - were counted on heavily. Same went for Yawney and young Zarley Zalapski, both of whom were destined for long NHL careers. 
Felix competed with Tony Stiles and Serge Roy for ice time on the third pairing. Stiles suffered two concussions during the tourney, allowing Felix to score a goal and assist on two others in six contests.
Felix signed with the Washington Capitals organization immediately following the Olympics. He would spend four years with the Caps, playing primarily in the minor leagues but also appearing in 35 career games, scoring once and adding 12 assists.
Tired of the AHL, Felix, like so many other Canadian National Team members, sought adventure in the pro leagues in Europe. He played in Germany, Finland and Switzerland.
Late in his career he returned to North America to play in the low minor leagues in the southern United States.
When he finally ended his vagabond hockey career days he returned to Sault Ste. Marie and coached youth hockey for many years.

September 18, 2017

Legends of Team Canada: Gord Sherven

“What I remember most about the win was a player named Gord Sherven, who’d brought a bottle of champagne into the dressing room to celebrate the win – and then fumbled with the foil and the cork, as if he wasn't used to celebrating such unexpected victories."

- Eric Duhatshek, on Canada's upset victory at the 1987 Izvestia Cup tournament in Moscow.

Weyburn, Saskatchewan's Gord Sherven had dreams of playing with Wayne Gretzky's Edmonton Oilers. But he also had some international dreams. He had more success with the latter rather than the former.

Sherven was drafted by the Oilers in 1981. The following season he enrolled in the University of North Dakota where he studied business administration and education, as well as starring on the right wing. By 1982 he and the likes of James Patrick, Dave Tippett, Darren Jensen and Jon Casey led the Fighting Sioux to a NCAA title.

In the 1983 season he took leave from his schooling to play for Canada at both the World Junior Championships (winning bronze) and the World Championships. His love for the international game was born.

The following year he would actually leave the University after 10 games to pursue an Olympic gold medal. But things did not work out so well for Sherven. After 49 games with the national team, a knee injury prevented him from being part of Canada's Olympic efforts in Sarajevo.

Sherven was able to join the Oilers later that same season, and even played in his first two NHL games. The rookie skated in practices with the Oilers throughout the NHL playoffs, but never saw game action again. That was unfortunate as the Oilers won their first Stanley Cup. While it was quite the thrill to experience the championship so closely, Sherven's lack of games played meant he would not get his name on the Stanley Cup.

No problem, right? Gretzky's Oilers were destined to win a few more Stanley Cups. Sherven made the team the following season, and even scored 9 goals and 16 points in the first half of his rookie season. And while the Oilers did go on to win the Stanley Cup again that spring, they somehow managed to find a way to do it without Sherven. The Oilers traded him to Minnesota in a package for veteran Mark Napier.

Sherven, who returned to classes every summer to complete his undergraduate degree, never caught on in Minnesota. he was briefly reacquired by the Oilers before a short stint with Hartford. But his career in North American pro hockey was essentially all but complete by 1987.

Sherven went on to a lengthy international career, which included club team play with many teams in Germany through to the end of the century. Three times he celebrated championships in the German league, including 1989 (Rosenheim), 1994 (Munich); 1996 (Dusseldorf). 

But it was his chance to play with Dave King's old Canadian national team that he is best remembered for. He finally achieved his dream of playing in the Olympics in 1988 in Calgary. He scored 4 goals and 8 points in 8 Olympic games, but Canada placed fourth in the tournament.

After retiring Sherven returned to Calgary where he became active with Hockey Canada and, oddly, the Calgary Flames alumni association even though he never played for the Flames.

Legends of Team Canada: Ken Lovsin

Ken Lovsin was the epitome of so many Canadian national team players in the 1980s and 1990s.

Yes, the national team program was an excellent breeding ground for young prospects looking to improve their skating, puck handling and especially their defensive game. Many went on to long and successful NHL careers.

Yet many were like Ken Lovsin - an anonymous NHL cast-off who most of us had never heard of before or since the 1994 Olympic games in Lillehammer, Norway.

Lovsin was a standout defenseman at Camrose Lutheran College before joining the University of Saskatchewan in 1986, graduating two years later.

Though the Hartford Whalers acquired his NHL rights in 1987, Lovsin chose to join the Canadian national team for the 1988-89 and 1989-90 seasons. He loved the international game, but it was a tough life. He made only about $30,000 a year, and there was no Olympics to aspire to. World Championships were also very unlikely as the national team players tended to get bumped by NHLers whose season ended early.

With that in mind Lovsin jumped at the opportunity to play pro by signing as a free agent with the Washington Capitals in 1990-91. He played with their AHL farm team in Baltimore until 1992, and also got a late Christmas gift by playing in his first - and what proved to be only - NHL game on Boxing Day 1990.

September 17, 2017

Legends of Team Canada: Ken Berry

Ken Berry was a successful junior star. In 1977-78 he played most of the season with Bellingham of the BCJHL. Ken racked up 130 points (57 goals and 73 assists) in only 65 games and was clearly too good for the league.

Late that season he joined the New Westminster Bruins. In the playoffs Ken played 6 games and scored 7 points (3 goals, 4 assists), helping New Westminster win the prestigious Memorial Cup. The team had 7 future NHL'ers. Ken Berry, John Paul Kelly, Larry Lozinski, Larry Melnyk, Brian Young, John Ogrodnick and Stan Smyl.

The following season (78-79) Ken played at University of Denver. His performance there eventually earned him a spot on the Canadian Olympic team in 1980. Ken scored 4 goals in 6 games and was one of Canada's best players. Some other players on that Olympic team included Glenn Anderson, Paul MacLean and Randy Gregg.

Ken was only 5'9" and 175 pounds which didn't sit well with the majority of scouts and GM's around the NHL. Ken was a great skater and he feisty and aggressive, very tough to play against. He was also versatile, able to play on left winger or center.

Vancouver eventually drafted Ken in the 6th round,1980 (112th overall). After the Olympics Ken went back to Denver where he played another season tying a 28-year old University record for most penalty minutes in one season (42). In two years of University hockey Ken scored 93 points (39 goals and 54 points) in 79 games.

Ken had the skills to play at the NHL level but when he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers in 1981 for B.J. MacDonald he got stuck behind a talented Edmonton Oilers squad. The franchise was stacked with future superstars and Hall of Famers.

Ken was constantly shuffled between Edmonton and the minor leagues (CHL and AHL). He didn't play more than 28 NHL games during a 4 year span. As Edmonton was in the midst of a dynasty Ken realized that he would never crack the lineup. So in 1985 he accepted an offer from Bayreuth in Germany where he racked up 52 points (27 goals) in 33 games.

"I played for the (Oilers) organization for four years and it wasn't really leading anywhere," Berry said.
"I was a good insurance policy to them. But other than that, nothing really seemed to be developing and I kind of wanted a change."

Following his successful stint in Germany, Ken decided to stay in Europe and travel with the Canadian National team. In little over two years Ken played 119 games for Canada (80 points). And once again he was selected to represent Canada in the Olympics, eight years after his first appearance. He had 6 points (2 goals and 4 assists) in 8 games and played sound two-way hockey.

His biggest night came a few months before the Olympics. Berry scored twice in a 3-2 win over the vaunted Soviet national team in Moscow at the famous Izvestija Christmastime tournament. It was the first time any Canadian team won a game on Moscow ice since Paul Henderson's famous goal in 1972.

Berry was more noted for his defensive game on the international stage. He often team up on a line with Marc Habscheid and Gord Sherven and tried to shadow the top Soviet line of Igor Larionov, Vladimir Krutov and Sergei Makarov.

His performance at the Olympic games impressed a few scouts and Vancouver signed him as a free agent. Ken finished the 1987-88 season playing in 14 regular-season games (5 points). Vancouver then signed Ken to a one-year contract. So in 1988-89 Ken played 14 games for the Canucks.

"I'd like to show that I could play more," Ken said. " One of the positive things about me is that I can come in periodically and give them what they need, as opposed to a lot of the other players."

Vancouver decided not to give Ken another contract and released him. Ken once again set his sights on Europe and Germany. The larger ice surface on the European rinks suited Ken very well because he was a good skater with decent mobility. He ended up playing in Munich for ECH M√ľnchen between 1989-93.

During these four seasons Ken took on a defensive role with the team and scored 141 points (71 goals and 70 assists) in 147 regular season games and another 15 points (9 goals and 6 assists) in 13 playoff games.

Ken Berry later started a new career as stock broker.

Legends of Team Canada: Greg Parks

It was shocking news when fit was announced that former NHL player and Canadian Olympian Greg Parks has passed away. He was just 48 years old. No cause of death has been announced.

Parks briefly played with the New York Islanders in the early 1990s. He played for Canada at the Olympics in 1994 before embarking on an interesting international career with stops in Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Japan.

The Edmonton born Parks starred at Bowling Green University from 1985 through 1989, winning the 1987 CCHA championships. With 240 points in 178 collegiate games, Parks was inducted into the University's Athletics Hall of Fame.

Parks was a speedy and skilled player who played bigger than his 5'10" 170-pound body should have allowed. With 74 points in 47 games in his third year, he finally became noticed by National Hockey League scouts. But Parks remained in school and finally signed with the New York Islanders in the summer of 1990. He would play three seasons with the Islanders system, appearing in 23 career games, scoring 1 goal and 2 assists.

Parks contributed to Canada's silver medal winning team at the 1994 Olympics, playing along side the likes of Paul Kariya, Petr Nedved, Corey Hirsch and Adrian Aucoin. He was one of the last players to make the roster. 
Parks suffered a bruised lung during the Games, scored a goal and 2 assists during the tournament.

Parks extended his professional career by travelling to Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Japan. Parks returned to Edmonton after his career was over, coaching youth hockey teams and raising three daughters.

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