Alex Pietrangelo shouldn’t be shocked that he was chosen to play for Canada in the 2022 Winter Olympics. That he was among the first three selections? Maybe surprised a bit.
Team Canada announced the first three players on its roster for Beijing. Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid were the first two. Then came Pietrangelo, the Golden Knights’ 29-year-old defenseman who has a hockey Daily Double to his credit: a Stanley Cup ring (2019 with St. Louis) and an Olympic gold medal (2014 with Canada in Sochi).
“It’s an opportunity you can’t pass up,” Pietrangelo said Monday at City National Arena after the Knights wrapped up practice in preparation for Tuesday’s preseason game in Denver vs. the Colorado Avalanche. “Winning last time was something special.”
Peter DeBoer, who coaches Pietrangelo in Vegas, will get to coach him in China come February as an assistant coach with Canada.
“That one was easy,” he said of Pietrangelo’s being named to Team Canada. “I’d say they got those three right.
“It’s certainly well deserved and I’m sure he’s the first of many players from our organization who will be going (to the Olympics).”
Unlike the Olympic experience had in Russia seven years ago, the Beijing Games are going to have strict protocols as it relates to COVID-19. But Pietrangelo didn’t seem worried.
“They’ll probably be similar to what we went through last year,” he said of the NHL protocols that were in place. “We haven’t really heard anything about that but it can’t be much different.”
The three-week Olympic break in February might be tempting to get away from hockey. But it’s a chance to represent your country and as he gets older, Pietrangelo can’t take for granted that an invitation to a future Olympics may be forthcoming.
“You never know, so you don’t want to pass up any opportunity,” he said.
One of his best memories of Sochi besides winning the gold medal was the chance to meet and celebrate with his fellow Canadian Olympians.
“I remember we had a big barbecue and meeting all the other athletes was special,” he said.
It took a while for Pietrangelo, a 14-year NHL veteran, to get comfortable in Vegas after spending the first 12 years of his career in St. Louis. But eventually, he found his groove and was the player the Golden Knights were getting during the playoffs when he had four goals and 12 points in 18 postseason games.
“I’m not a big analytics guy but the chances seemed to be the same,” he said of his struggles during the regular season and his sudden re-emergence as a dominant player during the playoffs. “You just trust the process. Sometimes, things just turn around and you start scoring goals and your confidence grows.”