Prior to the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, virtually nobody knew who Todd Hlushko was. But after years of hard work, he became an overnight success story.
The former junior with Guelph, Owen Sound and London had played two years in the American Hockey League before trying out for the Canadian National Team for the 1992-93 season.
“There is no doubt it was the best decision I ever made” said Hlushko. “It was a group of cast-offs on the team; young guys like me who couldn’t get a full-time pro job and a bunch of older players who maybe had had their shot but realized they were never going to play in the NHL.”Hlushko would become a mainstay on the Canadian National Team for the next two seasons, concluding with a silver medal at the Olympics.
“I actually scored five goals in the tournament, tying Petr Nedved and Paul Kariya for the team lead and that is pretty nice company to be in” said the Toronto native. “It was definitely my coming out party and the highlight of my career.”
Yet it was still a tough loss for Hlushko and Team Canada, dropping a heartbreaking shootout tie-breaker to Peter Forsberg and the Swedes.
“Whenever I still see one of the guys we talk about what might have been” laments Hlushko. “When Canada won the gold in 2002 (in Salt Lake), what made it such a big thing was it was the first gold Canada had won in fifty years. We could have been the team that ended the drought eight years before that. We always say, 'if I had scored in overtime that game I might have been like Paul Henderson’. It would have been a moment that galvanized your hockey life. But as it is, not too many people remember the silver medal winners.”Hlushko was able to turn his Olympic performance into a contract with the Philadelphia Flyers.
“My first game in the dressing room I had Garry Galley on one side of me and Eric Lindros on the other. As I walked out through the tunnel onto the ice I just kept looking down at the Flyer logo on my chest and my head was spinning. 'Is this really happening’ I kept asking myself. Even on the bench I’m thinking did I win a 'live your dream’ contest or something’? The following night I scored my first NHL goal against Tampa Bay and referee Terry Gregson, who was a friend of my family, was nice enough to get me the puck then afterwards brought me the game sheet. It was a classy move.”The scrappy Canadian hero would go on to play 79 games over the next few years, with stops in Calgary and Pittsburgh before heading to Germany for six seasons.