Chris Kelly and Brian Gionta Go From the Olympics to the N.H.L. Playoff Hunt

Chris Kelly and Brian Gionta Go From the Olympics to the N.H.L. Playoff Hunt

Last Sunday, Boston signed Gionta’s Olympic teammate Ryan Donato, its second-round draft pick in 2014, after he completed his third season at Harvard. Donato, 21, was the leading scorer for the Americans with five goals, and had two goals and two assists in his first two games with the Bruins.

Gionta, 39, was disappointed in the Americans’ finish in South Korea, but now finds himself on the second-best team in the N.H.L.’s Eastern Conference with the playoffs about three weeks away. He had two goals and four assists in his first 11 games.

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Brian Gionta, 39, the American captain at the Olympics, signed with the Bruins, the second-best team in the N.H.L.’s Eastern Conference.

Credit
Bob Dechiara/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

“It was a little bit of a whirlwind at first, obviously,” Gionta said. “Coming back from South Korea and heading off to Boston right away. It’s something that I knew was a possibility. So I was somewhat prepared for it. I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been a perfect fit. I love the city. I love the team. The guys have been great. They’ve really made things pretty easy.”

Gionta and Kelly’s N.H.L. contracts were the exception. Many players leaving Pyeongchang had contractual commitments with European clubs, American universities or North American minor league teams after participating in the Olympic hockey tournament.

Most of the players making up the Russian squad barely changed rosters after winning gold in overtime against Germany on Feb. 25. Of the 25 players on the gold medal team, 15 play for SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League while another eight play for CSKA Moscow, also of the K.H.L. SKA and CSKA finished first and second in the regular season, swept their first-round playoff series, and appear likely to meet in the conference finals.

The majority of American and Canadian players dispersed to Europe and North America, but the national team compatriots have still had ample opportunity to reminisce about their experiences in Pyeongchang. Both teams participated in a group chat using WhatsApp in the weeks leading up to the Olympics. Those chats remain active weeks after the closing ceremony.

“Guys still pipe in there every once in a while, whether it’s for jokes or videos or memories that we had when we were away,” said the Canadian defenseman Cody Goloubef, who had his American Hockey League contract with the Stockton Heat upgraded to a two-way contract with the Calgary Flames after the Games. “It always puts a smile on my face to see that chat light up.”

He added: “There’s so much experience and knowledge and games played and leagues played in in that group. It’s a good resource.”

Gionta is once again teammates with Donato, but he expects to remain in touch with other players from the American roster for years to come.

“It’s one of those experiences when you share it together, you’ll have that for the rest of your life,” Gionta said.

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