Christian Thomas is off to a solid start to the season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, posting six points (2+4) through the team’s first eight games.
But the speedy left wing won’t be in the team’s lineup for it’s upcoming three-game home stand.
No, Thomas isn’t being benched or disciplined. He’ll actually be overseas shooting for a spot with the Canadian Olympic team.
Thomas is among the players who will be skating for his home country in the Karjala Cup, an annual tournament being held in Sweden, Switzerland and Finland starting on November 8. This year’s competition is being used as a proving ground for potential Olympians from six countries.
“I never would have thought I would have a chance to play U-17, U-18 as a young hockey player,” said Thomas, who has previously represented his country while a junior player. “This tournament here, as a good evaluation for the Olympics, is three games. Just play your best and maybe you can wear that Canada jersey in the Olympics.”
The Winter Olympics have featured National Hockey League players suiting up for their home countries since 1998. But when the NHL and International Olympic Committee could not come to an agreement for the upcoming Games, which are being held in South Korea, a door was opened for a new group of skaters to take part.
Players participating in European leagues are eligible to participate in the Olympics, as are North American collegiate skaters, and those signed to American Hockey League only contracts. Thomas is the lone player currently suiting up in the AHL on Canada’s roster.
“I was talking to my agent about it, that I would have a chance [to make the Olympics] this summer, signing an AHL deal,” said Thomas. “I got a call from Sean Burke [Team Canada General Manager], and he asked if I would like to join the tournament. He just needed the go ahead from Pittsburgh to allow me to miss some games here. I’m really excited to be a part of it.”
Now, just three months from the start of the Pyeongchang Games, Thomas has a chance to live out a dream.
“To represent your country is pretty special,” said Thomas. “This year having that rule with the NHL players not being allowed to participate really helps out. But just to be able to put on the Canada jersey is pretty cool.”
NOTES: Team Canada’s schedule at the Karjala Cup features games against Switzerland (Wednesday, November 8), Sweden (Friday, November 10) and Finland (Sunday, November 12)…Former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Andrew Ebbett, Chris Lee and Simon Despres are also on Team Canada’s roster.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ next home game will be on Sunday, Nov. 5, and once again they’ll take on the Hershey Bears. Puck drop for the Sunday matinée between the two bitter rivals is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
Individual tickets for all Penguins home games are available at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza box office, online at TicketMaster.com, or by calling 800-745-3000.
Season ticket packages for the 19th season of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins hockey, including full season, 22-game, 12-game and Flexbook plans, are available by contacting the Penguins directly at (570) 208-7367.