(Reuters) - Eric Staal, who helped Canada to gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, will once again wear the Maple Leaf after being named in the men's ice hockey team on Tuesday for the Beijing Winter Games.
Staal, who scored 441 goals and 1,031 points in his 17-year National Hockey League career, will be the leader on a squad cobbled together from European, minor and junior leagues after the NHL decided in December to end its Olympic participation after a surge in COVID-19 cases forced the postponement of more than 100 games.
Canada was among the nations hardest hit by the NHL's decision.
Instead of stocking its roster with NHL All-Stars and future Hall of Famers, Canada was left scrambling to find coaching staff and players.
"The management group and coaching staff has worked diligently to evaluate and select players that we believe will give us the best chance to win a gold medal, and we are thrilled to announce the 25 players that will wear the Maple Leaf in Beijing,” said Team Canada general manager Shane Doan in a statement.
"We know this group of athletes and staff will embrace the opportunity and make all Canadians proud.”
Joining Staal on the 25-man roster are some young players that boast future all-star pedigrees, including Owen Power, the 19-year-old university defenceman taken with the first overall pick by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2021 NHL draft.
Forward Mason McTavish, 18, the number three overall selection by the Anaheim Ducks will be the youngest player.
The marquee name on the Canadian roster is Staal, who last season helped the Montreal Canadiens run to the Stanley Cup final but was unsigned this year and available to the national team.
The 37-year-old joined the American Hockey League's Iowa Wild earlier this month with the goal of getting fit to be considered for a spot on the Canadian Olympic roster.
"I have so many fond memories of competing at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and winning a gold medal on home ice, and I am honoured to once again be nominated for the 2022 Games in Beijing,” said Staal in a statement.
“The Olympics are the pinnacle of sport, and I know our entire team is grateful for the opportunity to compete for a gold medal in Beijing and be a part of Team Canada.”
Since NHL players were welcomed to play in the Olympics at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games, Canada has won gold three times but without NHL players settled for bronze in Pyeongchang while Russia took top spot on the podium beating Germany 4-3 in overtime.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)