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Highlights | Hat Trick
Big Rapids, Mich. - After completing one of his most impressive seasons as a professional, former Ferris State University men's ice hockey standout Chris Kunitz has been invited to the national team orientation camp to hopefully earn a spot to play for Canada in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
Kunitz was among 47 players invited to attend the national team camp August 25-28 in Calgary by Hockey Canada, which is the management group for Canada's National Men's Team. The orientation camp will offer the opportunity for management, the coaching staff and Hockey Canada to present the players with the team's plans for Sochi, such as playing systems, international rules and regulations and logistics. The announcement by Hockey Canada came days after an agreement was reached to have NHL players participate at the Sochi Games.
Canada's National Men's Team management group is comprised of executive director Steve Yzerman (Nepean, Ont./Tampa Bay, NHL), along with Doug Armstrong (Sarnia, Ont./St. Louis, NHL), Peter Chiarelli (Ottawa, Ont./ Boston, NHL), Ken Holland (Vernon, B.C./Detroit, NHL), Kevin Lowe (Lachute, Que./Edmonton, NHL), Bob Nicholson (Penticton, B.C./Hockey Canada) and Brad Pascall (Coquitlam, B.C./Hockey Canada).
The current head coach of the Detroit Red Wings, Mike Babcock (Saskatoon, Sask./Detroit, NHL), will serve as the head coach of Canada's National Men's Team, with three associate coaches: Ken Hitchcock (Edmonton, Alta./St. Louis, NHL), Claude Julien (Orleans, Ont./Boston, NHL) and Lindy Ruff (Warburg, Alta./Dallas, NHL).
"I would like to congratulate the players being invited today to our orientation camp," said Yzerman. "This marks an important step for this program, as it is our only opportunity to be together as a group before Sochi."
"On behalf of Hockey Canada, we thank the players and staff that will be part of the orientation camp in August," said Pascall. "This camp is very important in our preparation for the upcoming season, as it allows the management group, coaching staff, support staff and players to share information and continue our planning and preparation for Sochi in February."
Kunitz was among four current members of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins invited to the orientation camp along with defenseman Kris Letang, right winger James Neal and linemate Sidney Crosby, who scored the overtime goal that clinched the gold medal for Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
"I'm just really excited I got the invite," Kunitz said Monday in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article. "It was a huge surprise, just looking at the names of the guys, the young talent. It's a huge honor for me."
Previously, Kunitz was a member of Canada's squad that won a silver medal at the 2008 World Championships. The Olympic camp will help organizers determine their 25-man roster, which must be submitted by Dec. 31. Players whose stock rises can be named to Olympic teams even if they were not invited to their country's orientation camp.
Canada is set to open the 2014 Olympics on Feb. 13 against Norway in Sochi, Russia.
A member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Kunitz recently claimed NHL First-Team All-Star recognition for the first time in his professional career at the end of the 2012-13 campaign. Although he didn't establish any career highs due to the abbreviated season, Kunitz enjoyed perhaps his best season in '12-13, leading the team in goals (22) and power-play goals (t-9), while placing second in points (52), rating (plus-30) and game-winning goals (t-5). He became the first player not named Crosby or Malkin to lead the team in goal scoring since Ryan Malone in 2003-04.
Kunitz, who recently agreed to a three-year contract extension that will keep him in Pittsburgh through 2016-17, finished the regular season ranked in the top-10 in the NHL in goals, points, power-play goals, game-winning goals and rating. His 1.08 point-per-game average was the highest of his career. This past year marked the fifth time – and second-straight season – that Kunitz has topped the 50-point mark and the sixth time he's tallied 20 goals.
The 6-foot, 193-pound Kunitz became the first Penguins player since 2000 to score four goals in a single game when he accomplished the feat at Washington on Feb. 3. Later in the season he notched a career-best five points (3G-2A) against the NY Islanders on March 10.
Kunitz, who hails from Regina, Saskatchewan, added 10 points (5G-5A) in 15 playoffs games this spring. He tallied the overtime game-winning goal – capping a two-goal, three-point performance – in Game 3 against the New York Islanders in Round 1.
A key member of the Penguins' 2009 Stanley Cup championship squad, Kunitz was acquired by the Penguins from the Anaheim Ducks on Feb. 26, 2009. He went on to register 14 points (1G-13A) in 24 playoff contests that year, helping the Penguins defeat the Detroit Red Wings in the Cup Final.
Previously, Kunitz established several career highs for the Penguins during the '11-12 season, scoring 26 goals, 35 points and 61 points to go with six power-play markers in 82 regular-season games.
Prior to joining the Penguins Kunitz played four-plus seasons with Anaheim and the Atlanta Thrashers between 2003-09. He was instrumental in helping the Ducks win the Stanley Cup in 2007, scoring six points (1G-5A) in 13 playoff games.
Originally signed by Anaheim as an undrafted free agent on April 1, 2003, Kunitz has appeared in 581 career NHL regular-season games with Pittsburgh, Anaheim and Atlanta, totaling 172 goals, 231 assists and 403 points. He has added 58 points (17G-41A) in 99 playoff games.
As a collegian at Ferris State, Kunitz excelled during his 2002-03 senior season by garnering American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) All-America First-Team honors and was among the final three 2003 finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as college hockey's top player. A two-time (2001-02 and 2002-03) CCHA First-Team pick, Kunitz became the first Bulldog skater to earn CCHA Player of the Year honors after leading the league in points, goals, assists, and plus/minus for the 2002-03 campaign.
Kunitz concluded his stellar career ranking tied for sixth in career points (175), second in goals (99) and 18th in assists (76) in 152 contests. He played an integral role in leading the 2002-03 Bulldogs to a school-best 31-10-1 overall record, the school's first-ever CCHA Regular-Season Championship title and the program's first-ever NCAA Division I Championship Tournament appearance. Kunitz was also recognized as the male student-athlete recipient of the 2002-03 Bulldog of the Year Award, which is presented annually to the most outstanding Ferris State student-athlete.
Earlier this season, Kunitz was chosen to the CCHA's All-Decade Team for his work as a collegian at Ferris State.
A number of former Bulldog hockey players have participated in international competition at various levels, including past Olympians Bob Nardella (Italy), Norm Krumpschmid (Austria) and Jason Blake (United States).