Canadian forward Andrew Ebbett celebrates a goal in the Olympic bronze medal game. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Ebbett between Olympic bronze and playoff action
Being done with NHL hockey, Canadian forward Andrew Ebbett didn’t really consider playing for Olympic medals until recently. Now he’s a bronze medallist.
One year ago, 35-year-old Ebbett was in his adopted home in Switzerland where he plays for one of the top clubs of the country, SC Bern. The Olympics and Korea were far away for him.
Now Ebbett is still in the Swiss capital preparing for the playoffs but meanwhile with an Olympic bronze medal decorating his home.
“It was huge. It would have been nice to have the gold but bring home the Olympic medal – a year ago I’d even not have thought that’s possible,” said Ebbett. “It’s up there with the two Swiss championships and my first NHL game. I’m not sure in what order yet. It’s gonna take some couple of months to sit back and look at it. It’s something I’ll never forget for sure.”
Yes, gold is the colour Canada always expects. Like in Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014 when the NHL allowed its players to participate at the Olympics, the biggest sporting event for an athlete. The NHL’s decision to leave the Olympic spotlight hurt Team Canada, which won back-to-back gold with its NHL players (but was left without medal in 1998 and 2006 despite its NHL stars). But the decision gave room for other players to shine. Ebbett was one of them.
A journeyman with 12 NHL and AHL teams during nine years that included 224 NHL games, the forward decided for more stability in Europe and found it with SC Bern where he’s in his third year and is under contract for another season.
The Canadian men’s national team players were selected from six different leagues. Apart from three AHL players, all of them were pros in Europe. Five were under contract in Switzerland and Ebbett was joined in Korea by SC Bern teammates Mason Raymond and Maxim Noreau, who made it to the All-Star Team.
“It was cool. Just to be there with the Canadians. I didn’t have a Canadian jersey until last season at the Spengler Cup. To wear the Olympic jersey and have my family, my sister, my nephew come to South Korea, to see my parents jumping up and down the stands after we won the bronze medal was a really cool feeling for me,” Ebbett said.
It’s been an unusual season for the Canadian men’s national team so far. The pressure of having to excel with a team with no NHL players added some bustle to the team management and the potential Olympians already in summer. The Canadian men’s national team played two tournaments in Russia in August, one in November in Finland and two in December in Russia and Switzerland. The team was busier than any other country in making its team Olympic-ready.
That was part of the selection process but also for the players to get to know each other and the systems since they haven’t been together that much like European players, who in most cases have been part of the national team program for years.
“It was tough. I don’t think a lot of people realized that a lot of other national teams played together every year three, four times a year. We had a few tournaments, I think Team Canada did a good job having those tournaments. We knew each other for the most part but we came together really quick with a strong team of Canadian players. Everybody had a role,” Ebbett said.
The Vernon, British Columbia native contributed two goals and three points in five games on route to the bronze medal and the Olympics provided him an unforgettable experience. The team was 2-1 in Group A after wins against Switzerland and Korea and a loss to the Czechs. They edged Finland 1-0 in the quarter-finals before falling to the surprising German team 4-3 in the semi-finals. In the bronze medal game they took revenge against the Czechs and won 6-4 with Ebbett blazing the trail with the 1-0 and 4-1 goals for Canada.
Asked about his off-ice experiences in Korea, he said: “Everything was so busy in the village. To go up the mountains, see snowboarding. To see short-track speed skating and what a big sport it is in Korea and see how much they admire South Korean speed skaters was really cool to see.”
In the meantime, Ebbett has returned to his usual life in Switzerland. SC Bern became regular season winner again and Ebbett is the team’s scoring leader with 48 points (14+34) – one more than Mark Arcobello, who was in PyeongChang 2018 for Team USA.
Since coming to Switzerland, he has been on a lucky streak. He won two Swiss championships in the past two seasons and two out of two Spengler Cups he participated with Team Canada. Now SC Bern hopes for a title hat trick – the first for a Swiss club since the ‘90s.
“It’s been a fun couple of years since I’ve been here. The consistency for me has been good. The pressure is always on in Berne. The playoffs is the best time of the year, the sun comes out, it’s warm, the fans come out for the playoffs,” Ebbett said, knowing that it won’t be an easy time though.
In the quarter-finals starting tomorrow they will face Geneve-Servette. The other pairings are EV Zug vs. ZSC Lions Zurich, EHC Biel vs. HC Davos and HC Lugano vs. Fribourg-Gotteron.
“It’s going to be a tough match-up with Geneva. We played them six times already this year and all were one-goal games. They’re a good, solid team. They’re big and physical. We gonna have to be ready. We definitely won’t take anything for granted,” Ebbett said and mentions the team’s improvement recently since they got Stephane Da Costa. The Frenchman was one of the best scorers at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship with 10 points (6+4) from six games on home ice in Paris.
“We’ve been in that position two years ago when we were the eighth seed and we were playing number-one Zurich. We know what to expect. We know that in the playoffs anything can happen,” Ebbett said. “We’re really focused just on Game 1 and taking it one game at a time. It’s cliche but that’s how it works.”