The Big Ten is going to be well represented at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing, with former and current players sprinkled throughout the rosters of multiple nations.
Due to concerns about China’s COVID-19 policy and the rise of the Omicron variant of the virus, the NHL pulled its players out of the Olympics. The move made space on every national team for players in the NCAA and NHL alumni.
Jake Chelios, a former Michigan State defenseman, is joining Team China. Chelios collected 54 points (17 goals and 37 assists) in four seasons with the Spartans. He’s been a journeyman since his stint in the NCAA, playing in all sorts of leagues including a season with the Detroit Red Wings, hopping between its affiliate the Grand Rapids Griffins and Detroit in the short tenure.
More recently, the former Spartan has made the leap to international hockey. Chelios resides in Beijing, China playing for China’s only pro-hockey team, the Kunlun Red Star. Chelios is currently in his third season with Kunlun. The team is a member of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, one of the best leagues outside of the NHL. China will rely heavily on Kunlun Red Star for its hockey team, so Chelios will have plenty of current teammates joining him on the national roster.
There are also a handful of current Big Ten players participating in the Olympics. Team USA selected five players from the conference, three from Minnesota and two from Michigan. Sophomore forwards Brendan Brisson and Matty Beniers are the two Wolverines and junior defenseman Brock Faber, sophomore forward Ben Meyers and freshman forward Matthew Knies are from the Gophers.
Team Canada has a couple Big Ten stars of its own. Two Wolverines, sophomore defenseman Owen Power and sophomore forward Kent Johnson, will also join the roster.
“College hockey has come such a long way,” Michigan State Hockey Head Coach Danton Cole said. “The growth that we’ve made and the number of college guys that are in the NHL and this being a path (to the pros) moving forward, I think that’s a great showcase for us.”
The departures may have an effect on the ongoing Big Ten season. Ohio State has ascended to the top of the conference, tied with Michigan, while Minnesota is in third place. With such key players missing from the lineup, the Wolverines and the Gophers will have a tough time battling for the top seeding down the stretch.
Michigan State’s next two series will be against Michigan and Minnesota. The Spartans have played two-game series with both squads and were swept in both. The players heading into the Olympics were especially lethal against Michigan State with every single player notched at least one point against MSU.
Against weakened, but still strong opponents, the Spartans might finally have a chance to end their six-game losing streak. After a solid start to the season, Michigan State has yet to win a single game in 2022.
The team is currently on a well needed bye week, but they head to the road for a two-game series against Minnesota next weekend. The series kicks off on Feb. 4 at 8 p.m..
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