Olympic spot is 'opportunity of a lifetime' for Blyth's Justin Peters - Jan. 18, 2018
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Justin Peters, a Blyth native and alumni of the Blyth Minor Hockey system, is one of three goaltenders named to the Canadian men’s hockey team destined for next month’s Olympics in South Korea.
The announcement was made by Hockey Canada last week. Peters joins former Toronto Maple Leafs and Los Angeles Kings goaltender Ben Scrivens and Kevin Poulin of the Austrian Hockey League.
This will be the first Olympic games in a number of years that will not feature current National Hockey League (NHL) players. The decision was made last year that the league would pull out of the games, citing disruption of the season among other factors in the decision.
This won’t be the first time Peters has represented his country. He donned the red and white in 2014, playing in the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championships in Belarus. He has also represented Ontario at national youth competitions. However, being part of the Olympic games will be the most special, Peters said.
“I would say it is the proudest moment of my hockey career,” Peters said, e-mailing from Germany where he now plays for Kölner Haie. “To represent Canada as a hockey player in the Olympics is every kid’s dream. I’ve dreamt about it since I was a kid. My brothers and I have acted it out countless times in front of our house on King Street. For it to become a reality: Wow.”
The Olympics, he said, represents a whole different level of pride in representing your country when compared to other international competition.
“It’s the pinnacle,” he said. “It’s the Olympics. I know what the Olympics mean to everyone in Canada. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.”
According to Justin’s father, Jeff, the process began in July, when Justin received a call from former Canadian Olympic goaltender and long-time NHL player Sean Burke telling him that he was on Hockey Canada’s radar. From there, the anticipation built and culminated in another phone call from Burke telling him he’d been chosen to be part of the team.
“I was so excited and honoured. Sean Burke called me on a conference call with the rest of the Hockey Canada brass,” Justin said. “I didn’t know what to say other than ‘thank you’ and ‘what an honour!’”
Justin’s parents Jeff and Janice say they’ve been inundated with calls and e-mails from those who have been involved with Justin’s career over the years congratulating the family. The support has been overwhelming, Jeff said.
While decisions still have to be made and logistics have to be worked out, Jeff said that he hopes that he or Janice will be able to make the trip to South Korea to watch their son play. Justin’s wife Kelly, at home with newly-born twins, also hopes to make her way east to see her husband play, although nothing has been decided yet.
With the birth of twins Logan and Nora late last year, Justin says it has been a thrilling period of his life, but that it hasn’t been without its challenges and sacrifices.
“When I signed in Europe, I knew the situation with the NHL players not participating in the Olympics. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Justin said. “It was a difficult decision, obviously. I missed the birth of my kids. I have pretty much missed the first four and a half months of their lives. My wife Kelly has been doing an amazing job taking care of our son Logan and daughter Nora. I can’t say enough about how amazing she’s been. To be able to tell my kids one day that their dad was an Olympian will be pretty special.”
Both Jeff and Janice say it is a pretty special time for them as well. While all three of their sons have enjoyed success at various levels of professional hockey – Justin a former NHLer and now an Olympian, Alex an award-winner in the Ontario Hockey League now playing in eastern Canada and Anthony now playing in the American Hockey League after time in both the Ontario and East Coast Hockey Leagues – they both agree that they never dreamed one of their sons would be an Olympian.
Jeff said that while he and Janice always believed in their sons, they never thought any of them would play in the NHL, let alone the Olympics, so they’re extremely proud of Justin and what lies ahead of him.
Jeff said that he and Janice were thrilled to hear the news that their son had been named to the team. He also said that it’s really been great to see how Blyth residents and those throughout Huron County have really embraced Justin being named to the team and have got behind him.
As far as on-ice developments, Justin says he feels Canada has put together a strong team for this year’s Olympics. More importantly, he said, the group is motivated.
“I’ve gotten to know most of my teammates in pre-Olympic tournaments we have competed in leading up to the Olympics. Every player on our team and their families have had to make some big sacrifices for them to come to Europe to play this season, which makes for a real motivated group of players,” Justin said. “When you combine that with the skill level and the opportunity to represent Canada in the Olympics, I think you will see it bring out the best in every player. Hockey Canada’s goal is always to win gold.”
And while on the ice Justin and his teammates will be singularly focused, he also hopes to experience more than what happens on the ice, while doing whatever the team requires of him.
“I am really going to try and take in the whole experience as much as possible,” Justin said. “I am going to be prepared to accept any role I’m given on the team and be the best teammate I can be.”
Justin made his NHL debut for the Carolina Hurricanes on Feb. 6, 2010, making 34 saves and beating the New York Islanders by a score of 3-1. He has since played over 80 games in the NHL for the Hurricanes, Washington Capitals and Arizona Coyotes. He has also played in the Ontario Hockey League, the American Hockey League and the East Coast Hockey League before playing in the Kontinental Hockey League in 2017 for Latvian-based Dinamo Riga and then heading to the Deutsche Eishockey Liga in October.
The men’s hockey competition begins on Valentine’s Day with all games being played in Gangneung. Canada’s first game is on Feb. 15 when they take on Switzerland at 7:10 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.