Prior to the 1988 Olympics, the International Olympic Committee decided to formally end the hypocrisy of "amateur" athletics and allow professionals to compete in sports such as hockey.
Now that did not mean Wayne Gretzky was going to Calgary for the Olympics. No, the National Hockey League would wait another decade before interrupting their schedule to allow all of it's high priced talent to compete on the world's biggest stage.
But it did mean, in theory anyway, that a pro player could compete at the Olympics if they somehow were granted permission to leave their employer during the season.
Team Canada officials quickly sought such opportunities. Eventually they secured a deal with the seven Canadian NHL clubs at the time whereby Canada would ask for a player to be loaned from each team, if they so chose. The NHL team would then grant or deny permission.
Ultimately Canada added former Canadian Olympian Tim Watters from Winnipeg on defense and veteran forwards Jim Peplinksi from Calgary and Steve Tambellini from Vancouver. All three were being used sparingly by their respective teams at the time.
Canada zeroed in on Tambellini quite quickly. Canadian assistant coach Tom Watt was very familiar with Tambellini from his days as head coach of the Canucks. He knew Tambellini could help Canada's chances.
"He's (Tambellini) a guy we'd really like to look at because of his skills. He'd be good in the international game," said head coach Dave King.
"He's a wonderful talent," added Watt. "In the NHL his size works against him. He gets squeezed out quite a bit."
Tambellini was a wonderful talent who was near the end of his career on the ice. He was a first round pick of the New York Islanders a decade earlier, and went on to play more than 500 games in the NHL, scoring 160 goals.
Ultimately, Canucks boss Pat Quinn left the decision to go to the Olympics entirely up to Tambellini.
"Pat was very supportive of the idea of helping the Olympic team, even though the club is in a battle for its playoff life," Tambellini said. "When the official request was made for me he said the decision was mine. He said that if a club team couldn't afford to send one player to the country's team for three weeks then something was wrong with that team.
"That made the decision easy for me, and I'm happy to get the chance to play in the Olympics. Funny, but I think quite a few players in the NHL would jump at the opportunity to be in Calgary for those two weeks if they were asked. Several Canucks said they would love to do it, and guys on other teams wished me luck and said they would like to be going with me.
"But I'll tell you who's really excited that I'm going to the Olympics, the top level of international hockey. My dad thinks it's a great idea."
Steve's father, Addie Tambellini, was a member of the Trail Smoke Eaters senior team in 1961, when it won the world championship in Switzerland. That club, coached by Bobby Kromm with the legendary Seth Martin in goal, was the last Canadian team to win the world championship until 1994.
"International hockey was a big topic around our house in Trail when I was a kid," Tambellini said. "I've been lucky to have had a few shots at the international game along the way, so I don't come to this team with no knowledge of what it takes to play that game."
Tambellini had previously played at the World Juniors in 1978 and the World Championships in 1981.
Ultimately Tambellini had to wait for Olympic glory as the Canadian national team finished fourth in Calgary.
But Tambellini went on to become a top NHL executive and was included in Team Canada's gold medal winning management team in 2002.
Pat Quinn was the coach of that 2002 team. Wayne Gretzky was the executive director.
"Steve will have a hand in selecting members of the team," Gretzky said at the time. "We felt we needed another pair of eyes to help us evaluate talent and to recognize teams that we will go up against.
"It was pretty easy to come up with a guy with the kind of class and hockey mind that SteveTambellini has. Pat [Quinn] was thrilled to bring Steve on board."