USA Hockey announced NHL's Winter Classic on Monday afternoon. With the NHL sitting out these Olympics, the roster is comprised of a ragtag group of players pulled from the American Hockey League (AHL), the college ranks and other leagues overseas.during the
One of the names heading to South Korea is Bobby Butler, a 30-year-old forward, currently playing for the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL. Butler has 130 NHL games between the Senators, Devils, Predators and Panthers on his resumé but he has played more than 40 games in a season only once and hasn't suited up at the NHL level since 2014. To say he was a long shot to represent the U.S. at the Olympics would be an understatement.
But Butler has 25 points in 32 games for the Admirals this season, and clearly the USA Hockey staff saw something in his game that they liked enough to bring him to Pyeongchang. On Monday afternoon, Butler got to share that news with his dad, and it led to a pretty awesome moment between father and son.
The NHL's absence from the Games is disappointing and will undeniably be felt during the tournament, but a silver lining can be found in the human interest department. Players who might've thought that they'd never receive Olympic consideration now are presented with the opportunity of a lifetime, and it has the potential to create for some amazing stories and memories that could define these players' entire careers.
It's no secret that NHL players relish the opportunity to go suit up for their country at the Olympics -- many have actively voiced their frustrations over not being able to do so this year -- but it may mean even more to the guys that are going this year. Given the circumstances, many of these guys may never play at this level again, so this will be everything to them. The stakes and emotions will be extremely high, and we're already getting an early sneak peek at that emotion.