Former St. John’s Icecap Eric O’Dell is playing a major role in the quest for a third straight gold medal
Men’s hockey at the Olympic Games is getting a lot of attention this month, and for good reason. However, fans in Newfoundland have a special reason to cheer for Canada.
With the absence of NHL players from the Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, players from minor divisions and leagues across Europe have come together to represent their flags.
This year’s Canadian team looks much different from the teams of past years, which were filled with veteran names with NHL experience under their belts. While there are no Newfoundlanders on the roster, there is a connection to the Rock centering the fourth line – former St. John’s Icecap Eric O’Dell.
The 27-year-old Ottawa native was drafted in the second round by the Anaheim Ducks in 2008. O’Dell spent parts of four seasons in St. John’s, playing with the Winnipeg Jets and their old farm team, the St. John’s Icecaps. He is second in all-time scoring for the Icecaps, behind only Jason Jaffray. O’Dell scored 148 points in 177 games, and was instrumental in the Icecaps’ run to the Calder Cup Finals in 2014.
Brendan McCarthy, sports writer for the Telegram and former Icecaps reporter, fondly remembers O’Dell’s time in St. John’s. He says Canada has a player with the ability to bring them far into these Olympics.
“I think about heart and smarts…good stick handler, very, very good passer, great in traffic. A very smart player and very patient.”
O’Dell has been called an “energy guy” on Canada’s checking line. He is seen as someone who is able to spark offence and bring a sense of energy and excitement to the ice. McCarthy also spoke about the impact O’Dell has had on Canada’s roster, thanks to his versatility.
“Now that he can play that third or fourth line, it’s worked out for him,” he said.
O’Dell has one goal and one assist in four games this tournament. He also leads all skaters in face-offs won.
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Thomas Wall, a fan of O’Dell’s Icecaps from St. John’s, says it’s thrilling to watch someone he saw develop as a hockey player be able to represent Canada on hockey’s biggest stage.
“It’s nice to see. There’s a lot of good talent that comes out of here. Not everyone gets recognized because of where we are. So, seeing that he was able to make the cut out there is really cool.”
Canada has moved on to the semi-finals of the men’s draw, winning a 1-0 thriller against Finland. O’Dell and the rest of the Canadian squad will face Germany on Friday, Feb. 23. With a win Canada would face either team Czech Republic or the Olympic Athletes from Russia in the gold medal game later this week. When asked if Canada will be able to take home the gold, Wall gave a simple answer.