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September 16, 2017

Legends of Team Canada: Vaughn Karpan


Vaughn Karpan was "the least talented player" to the Canadian national team for the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, as well as for five years with the Canadian National Team from 1983 to 1988.

Those are his words, not ours.


"I was, without a doubt, the least talented player on both (Olympic) teams, but I ran into a guy, (head coach) Dave King, who saw the strengths in my game and I guess I was smart enough to figure out what he wanted and it was important enough for me to be part of that team that I did it."
King liked the role Karpan filled so much that he became a regular with the team, playing in 224 official international games.
"I was a penalty-killer and a checker, usually against one of the other team's top two lines. That was my role and I did it to the best of my ability," he said.
"I wasn't so impressed with myself to think that I was anything different than what the coach thought, and that (playing a role) is part of being on a team."
Canada did not win a medal in either of those Olympics. Karpan's proudest memento is the white cowboy hat he wore during the opening ceremonies in Calgary. 
"For me, the Olympics was about the journey there, not the two weeks there. It was surviving day to day, week to week over a period of three years and never having a guarantee. I just wasn't one of those guys who could get comfortable. The Olympic movement was typically a four- or eight-year process to get to your moment in the Olympic Games."
Karpan was never drafted by a NHL team and never got an opportunity even to attend a training camp despite his Olympic reputation. 
Though Karpan played briefly with the Brandon Wheat Kings and New Westminster Royals in junior hockey, his back ground was at the Canadian collegiate level which is not known for producing many future NHLers.
Karpan earned a bachelor of arts degree at the University of Manitoba while helping the Bisons win two Great Plains Conference championships
Karpan said he's owes a lot to his university hockey days. The Bisons won two Great Plains Conference championships when he was there.
"Truthfully, I really wasn't going to have much of a career in hockey if I hadn't gone to the U of M. I never would have been a national team player," said Karpan.
"Wayne Fleming (former Bisons head coach) deserves all the credit in the world. He was a guy that saw the positives in me as a player and a person and gave me every opportunity to grow. It was just a special time."
Fleming, of course went on to be a big part of the national team program, too.
Karpan left the ice after the 1988 Olympics and settled in the Vancouver area. He served as a long time western scout for Winnipeg/Arizona and Montreal before joining the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights as Director of Player Personnel in 2016

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