Eric Staal, an Olympic hockey veteran, returns to the ice to compete for a spot on Canada’s Olympic hockey team

Eric Staal fondly remembers fighting it out with his younger brothers Marc, Jordan, and Jared on their backyard rink, which was built with love by Henry, their father, on the family’s sod farm in Thunder Bay, Ont.

So for most of the past four months, with no job in the hockey world, the 37-year-old Staal spent his time playing the role of hockey dad — tending to his own outdoor rink along with shuttling Parker, 12, Levi, 10, and Finley, 7, to minor hockey practices and games.

Staal from Des Moines said Friday that all the players play and it makes me feel like I’m always at a rink each night. “And I’ve stayed at the rink personally, so that’s kept my mind fresh and the legs engaged.”

With 21 days to the 2022 Winter Olympics, Staal is resuming his own hockey career on a professional tryout with the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League. Staal hopes to shake off his rust and show Team Canada that he is worthy to be on the team that will compete for gold in Beijing.

In December, the NHL pulled out of Beijing Olympics due to the COVID-19 Omicron version of the COVID-19 Omicron variant that was tearing through teams and causing a series of cancellations. Hockey Canada is trying to put together a team mainly made up of Canadians who have been playing abroad, American Hockey League players, and some young stars from the NCAA and junior ranks.

“We all know the NHL is the best league in the world,” said Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada’s senior vice-president of national teams. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean that there aren’t some really great players in that league. Our job is to find them and then make sure we put the best product on the ice.”

Staal was a strong leader in the final years of his career. He would not be intimidated by the demands of the stage. He played mainly on the fourth line last season during a magical playoff run for the Montreal Canadiens, registering two goals and eight points through 21 post-season appearances.

Staal was last seen in action with the Montreal Canadiens, against the Tampa Bay Lightning, in the Stanley Cup final. He signed a professional contract with the Iowa Wild of American Hockey League. (Getty Images)

Candidate to be the Olympic Team Captain

He is likely to be Canada’s captain in Beijing, having scored more than 1,000 points in almost 1,300 NHL regular-season games.

The list also includes former NHL players, such as Jason Demers, Eric Fehr, Josh Ho-Sang and Devan Dubnyk, who are all in contention for roster spots.

Former Arizona Coyotes star Shane Doan was officially announced as Team Canada’s general manager on Friday, as was former Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julian as the head coach.

Staal declared Friday that Canada has the opportunity to be represented at the Olympic Games. He was preparing for Friday’s match against the Chicago Wolves. “That’s quite special and it would be an honor if I got that chance.

“I still have an edge, desire to compete, battle and play.”

I have a strong desire to be competitive and fight for my rights.– Eric Staal

From a hockey perspective, Staal has done it all. He is a member of the Triple Gold Club and one of 29 players who have won Olympic gold, the Stanley Cup, and a title as a world champion.

Competing in the Olympics is a peak life experience — and Staal would dearly love the opportunity to add to the gold he won at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

Staal stated, “It is the Olympic Games.” He also served as a member on the taxi squad for the 2006 Turin Games. “It has a special vibe. It’s an unmatched spirit that the games have. These feelings remain vividly in my memory from 2006 and 2010. I hope to have that opportunity again. It’s special and very important.

“So hopefully, things will go well in the next few weeks, and maybe, I’ll have that chance.”

Ryan Suter, from the U.S., takes on Staal in a preliminary match at the Vancouver Olympics. (AFP via Getty Images).

“Can’t Control What You Can’t Control”

Omicron is rapidly spreading in China, leading new restrictions and lockdowns. Games will be held in a “closed loop system”, which is designed to prevent any contact between the public, and those within the Olympic bubble.

In special vehicles, the athletes will travel between hotels to reach the rink. Anyone who leaves bubble will be forced to quarantine for three weeks.

Staal expressed concern about tensions leading up to the Games, saying that she was not too concerned. “There are certainly a lot restrictions with a lot different thoughts and feelings about everything that has to do with vaccines and COVID. It’s an opportunity for me to participate in the Olympic Games.

“You have control over what you can control.” For me, it’s all about feeling how I feel during each stretch and how my body reacts. I’ll be glad to get the chance to go there. That would be a great opportunity for me.