If things had gone differently, Carolina Hurricanes forward Teuvo Teravainen believes he could have been at the Winter Olympics.
He could be playing for Finland, enjoying his first Olympic experience, hopefully competing for a medal in hockey.
Who knows, he could have been on a line centered by the Canes’ Sebastian Aho, with, say, Patrik Laine on the other wing.
The NHL’s decision not to allow its players to participate in the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, didn’t set well with a lot of those players. And now that the Games are underway, and men’s hockey beginning Wednesday in Gangneung, it stings even more.
“The Olympics is one of the tournaments you always dream about,” Teravainen said Tuesday. “It’s kind of bad we can’t go now. It’s four more years to wait, so we’ll see what happens then, but it’s always been my dream. So it’s disappointing.”
Teravainen and Aho both were chosen for Finland’s World Cup of Hockey team as the tournament was held in Toronto before the NHL’s 2016-17 season. Both also starred as the Finns won the World Junior Championship — Teravainen in 2014 and Aho in 2016.
Aho centered a line with Laine, the high-scoring forward for the Winnipeg Jets, and Jesse Puljujarvi of the Edmonton Oilers. The dynamic line was all but unstoppable as the Finns rolled to the gold medal.
Aho and Teravainen are the Canes’ two leading scorers this season, combining for a goal and five assists Tuesday in the Canes’ 7-3 win over the Los Angeles King. While it’s possible neither could have been picked for Team Finland, it’s also possible both could have made it.
Only 20, Aho doesn’t fret missing out on the Olympics this year.
“It’s such a big thing in Finland and it was so much fun watching those games when I was growing up,” Aho said. “It would be nice to play there, but the minute the decision was made I stopped thinking about it.
“It’s not my call. Maybe next time. I hope so but you never know.”
The Canes have some former teammates in South Korea, players with NHL experience. Defensemen Bobby Sanguinetti and James Wisniewski are on Team USA. Goalie Justin Peters is on the Canadian team.
For Canes center Victor Rask, it goes deeper than that. His older sister, Fanny, is on the Swedish women’s hockey team and in her second Olympics.
“It should a lot of fun for her,” Rask said. “She’s been working very hard for this and she’s really dedicated to the sport. She’s a really good skater and she plays tough.”
Fanny Rask, a forward, scored Sweden’s first goal of the Olympics as the Swedes topped Japan 2-1 and had two assists in an 8-0 victory Monday over the Korean unified team.
Victor Rask said the time difference has prevented him from watching the games live but he has seen the highlights and is texting and communicating with his sister. Rask’s mother is in Raleigh for the Canes’ “Moms’ Trip” with the team and his father in Sweden.
“But she’s focused, so I’m trying to stay away,” Victor Rask said of his sister.
Victor Rask was a part of the Canes’ contingent that helped Sweden win the 2017 World Championship, joining forwards Elias Lindholm, Joakim Nordstrom, Marcus Kruger and former Canes goalie Eddie Lack. It’s hard to say if any would have been chosen for Team Sweden in the Olympics had the NHL’ers been allowed to go.
Could Sweden have been a contender for the Olympics gold?
“Always a contender,” Rask said.
Former Canes captain Eric Staal competed for Canada and returned with the gold medal in 2010 in the Vancouver Games, the Canadian denying the U.S. — with former Canes defenseman Tim Gleason — in an epic championship game. Also coming back with medals were forward Tuomo Ruutu and defenseman Joni Pitkanen of Finland, which took the bronze.
Defenseman Justin Faulk was on Team USA in 2014 in Sochi and former Canes defenseman Andrej Sekera on the Slovakian national team. Ruutu won another bronze with Finland.
In announcing the NHL decision on the Olympics, commissioner Gary Bettman said an Olympic break would be too disruptive to the regular-season schedule. There also were concerns about injuries, about insurance and travels costs for the players
Faulk called it a bad decision at the time and said going to Sochi in 2014 was “something I’ll remember the rest of my life and one of the coolest things in hockey I’ll probably ever have the opportunity to do.”
The others will have to wait until the 2022 Games in China, for that opportunity — if the NHL decides to let its guys play.
“I’m 23, so I still have some years,” Teravainen said. “Hopefully then.”