Olympic hockey team gets ringing endorsement

By TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

For 50 years, it wasn’t a problem.

There was no plan to produce Olympic rings to go with Canadian Olympic gold medals in hockey because there were no Olympic gold medals.

Now, in addition to the gold medal they receive on the ice in Vancouver, Canadian players will receive a championship ring produced by the people at Intergold, the Calgary-based company which has designed most of the recent Stanley Cup and Grey Cup rings and a large percentage of the World Series and NBA championship rings as well.

And now, for the first time ever, Canada’s Olympic gold-medal-winning hockey players will receive them in front of more fans than they played in front of at GM Place to win their gold medals. It will all happen Monday in Commonwealth Stadium.

“I saw the rings the other day when I was in Calgary and they’re absolutely spectacular,” said head coach Mike Babcock.

“To me, they are a special, special thing and this one completes the collection,” said the coach who has one from the IIHF World Championships and another for winning the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings.

To most people, the “Olympic rings” are the five ring symbol for the event, not something to put on players’ and coaches’ fingers.

If they already have a gold medal, you ask, what do they need with the rings?

One reason is that you can’t wear a gold medal around your neck the rest of your life, especially the discus-sized ones they’ve been handing out lately.

The other is that only the players get the gold medals.

OK. Other than Soviet Union hockey coach Anatoly Tarasov who always forced the backup goaltender to give him his.

You want to talk to somebody about the meaning of the ring and the Canada Cel

ebrates event here Monday and there’s no one better than Ken Hitchcock. He won a Stanley Cup as head coach of the Dallas Stars and he was on the staff of both 2002 and 2010 gold-medal teams.

“This is a lot different than the Stanley Cup. For the last eight years when I look at my Olympic ring I feel like I share it with everybody in Canada. Everybody I ever have been associated with from my beginnings in Edmonton to, really, every Canadian I know. When I look at the Stanley Cup ring I think more of a very small group of people that I share that with.

“It’s like this. I was in a small town in Alberta recently and I went for a haircut. There were two pictures on the wall. One was of the 2002 Olympic team and the other was of the 2010 Olympic team.

“But this is so much more than coming to Edmonton to get your ring,” said the Edmonton native of the two-day event which includes a gala and golf tournament.

“We didn’t have anything like this in ’02. Everybody left Vancouver like we left Salt Lake. It’s a very strange feeling. Everybody is revving up the party and everybody involved in creating the party is headed to the airport to rejoin their NHL teams. As coaches, we walked out the door and haven’t really talked to each other since. This really is a tremendous opportunity for us to celebrate with each other.

“And I’m really proud that they’re doing this where they’re doing it. When you go to Edmonton you can always count on the way they do things. It’ll be first class.”

Hockey Canada refused to provide pictures of this year’s rings to QMI Agency for a reasonable enough reason. When the players open the box to sneak a peek at what they look like after the presentation on the stage at Commonwealth Stadium, they want it to be a surprise.

Eight years ago, there was no similar event to make the presentations. The special rings to commemorate the first gold medal in 50 years were presented to six members of Canada’s men’s team — Wayne Gretzky, Pat Quinn, Ed Belfour, Michael Peca, Chris Pronger and Steve Yzerman — at a press conference in Toronto. Those rings featured the Team Canada logo, the Olympic rings, the 5-2 score from the gold-medal game and the years of Canada’s previous gold-medal victories in 1920, 1924, 1928, 1932, 1948 and 1952.

Hockey Canada president and CEO Bob Nicholson presented the other members of the team with their rings at various locations around the league early in the following NHL season which he’ll probably have to do again with Chris Pronger and Martin Brodeur, the only two no-shows from the men’s team.

Presenting them here on such a stage has the potential to be an Olympic event itself.

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca

POLL