Profile Team Canada's Chay Genoway got to live out his NHL dream — for 1 game
Defenceman now has Olympic medal ambitions with Canada set for quarter-final on Wednesday
By Tim Wharnsby, CBC Sports
There are some exceptions, but the NHL world generally has been obsessed with 6-foot-something, 200-pound-plus defencemen.
That fixation left little chance for 5-foot-9, 170-pound Canadian Olympian Chay Genoway to play in the show. But he did, and he's extremely proud of the achievement, even though his time in the NHL lasted for only one game.
"It was one game and I wouldn't trade one game in the NHL for anything," said the 31-year-old Genoway, who along with his teammates have been preparing for their quarter-final game on Wednesday (CBC, 7:10 a.m. ET).
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They play the winner of Tuesday's qualification game between Finland and host South Korea.
"There are a lot of people who have dreamed of playing one game in the NHL and I had that chance," he said. "Although it was one only one game, it was very special. I wish it would have led to more, but I got to live out a dream."
Genoway is one of 375 players who has lived out the one-game NHL dream. He's almost six years removed from that outing for the Minnesota Wild on Apr. 7, 2012, but he remembers all the details.
Called up in rookie season
The Minnesota Wild signed the Morden, Man., native as a free agent out of the University of North Dakota after he set a handful of records for defencemen at the Grand Forks, N.D. school.
He then arrived on the scene to play for the Wild's AHL-affiliate, the Houston Aeros, with plenty of raw potential. He put up some good numbers in his rookie pro season (seven goals, 36 points in 72 games) and that earned him a promotion for the Wild's regular-season finale.
The Wild lost that game 4-1 to the Arizona Coyotes at home, but Genoway helped set up the lone Minnesota goal from Dany Heatley to earn second-star honours.
"I gave it to the right guys on that team at that time," said the humble Genoway, who passed the puck to captain Mikko Koivu who then gave it to Heatley.
The Wild did not make the playoffs that spring. So Genoway was returned to Houston for its playoff run the following day.
He continued to evolve the next season with the Aeros, but because of the 2012-13 NHL lockout, there was no opportunity for Genoway to build off the success of his NHL debut. He was invited to the Wild's brief training camp in mid-January but did not crack the roster.
"There are just so many great hockey players out there and I'm sure a little politics were involved," Genoway opined. "Whether you're one of their guys or someone has spoken up for you, I think everyone on this Olympic team would have a story for you like that.
"I don't regret anything. A lot of it's out of your control. I know I gave it my best effort."
Former Aeros assistant coach Mike Van Ryn, who was responsible for defencemen, was and still is a big Genoway supporter.
"He is a great human, a caring guy who respects everyone around him," said Van Ryn, now the head coach of the Coyotes AHL team, the Tucson Roadrunners. "I absolutely loved coaching him and thought he progressed over the two years I had him.
"Chay skates very well and has good vision. He may not be the biggest guy but he competes and has a big heart. I am very happy to see him doing well. I even brought up his name last summer to have my team consider signing him as a veteran."
After two seasons in Houston, Genoway was traded to the Washington Capitals. After two more campaigns with Washington's farm team in the AHL, the Hershey Bears, he decided to pursue an opportunity in the Kontinental Hockey League.
Bigger ice, bigger impact
He has flourished on the bigger ice in Russia and Canadian Olympic general manager Sean Burke took notice.
"It's so much fun to put on a Canadian jersey," said Genoway, whose 34-year-old brother Colby plays in the KHL for Bratislava Slovan. "I've had the chance to put it on five times in the last year or so in different tournaments and it's something special."
What's also been special for the younger Genoway has been his friendship with Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. The two were teammates at Shattuck-Saint Mary's prep school in Faribault, Minn., and in Genoway's freshman season at North Dakota.
"He was very congratulatory and excited for me when I was named to the team," Genoway said. "I'm sure deep down he wishes he was here.
"He has given me a lot of advice, like what the Athletes' Village was like and the importance of each game."
Toews has been in contact throughout the Olympic Winter Games and hopes to be watching his friend in the gold-medal final late on Saturday evening after the Blackhawks game in Columbus.