Originally written for the Maritime NHLers For Kids
Select few ever have the honor and privilege to represent their country on hockey’s Olympic stage.
Sydney, Nova Scotia’s Fabian Joseph epitomized the heart and soul of the Canadian Olympic men’s hockey team in 1992 and 1994.
“It was an honor to represent your country, Albertville and Lillehammer were definitely the highlights of my career,” said Joseph.
Joseph embraced the overall Olympic experience throughout his journey to hockey’s highest international stage. “Entering the Olympic Stadium during the Opening Ceremonies is definitely one of my fondest memories,” he recalled. “Sharing that experience with other elite athletes from all sports is very rewarding.”
“At that moment all the hard work and anticipation of the possibilities of participating and winning a Gold medal on the Olympic stage are realized,”
Joseph, a skilled, gritty forward who took pride in the full 200ft game would be named captain of the 1994 squad, an honour that he will never forget.
“The honour of wearing the ‘C’, was very gratifying for me,” said Joseph. “It was a privilege that I appreciated very much knowing that the coaching staff, management and players all felt that I had the leadership qualities to be the captain. It was also very gratifying for my parents, family, hometown community and province,” Joseph said.
The modest Joseph still downplays his role as captain citing the 1994 team boasted a plethora of international experience.
“Brad Schlegel was our captain in 1992, NHL veteran Chris Kontos, Derek Mayer, Ken Lovsin, Todd Hlushko and it was Wally Schreiber’s 3rd Olympics. It was a team on a mission, so there wasn’t a player on the team who wasn’t a leader,” Joseph added.
It was clear the entire country was behind the underdog Men’s team. “The whole country supported us and I certainly had lots of support from my family and all of the Maritimes with telegrams of best wishes,” remembered Joseph.
Two decades later, Joseph’s memories of the action on the ice remain as vivid as ever. “Definitely one of my fondest memories is beating Germany in a shootout in quarterfinals and the Czech Republic in semi-finals,” said Joseph, who believes the triumph over the Czech Republic in 1992 was the best game of his career. The proud Nova Scotian assisted on winning goal and scored the insurance marker in the 4-2 victory.
In 1994, Canada beat the Czech Republic once again and took down the tournament favorite, Finland in semi-finals.
Joseph recalls how focused and prepared both Olympic teams were entering the competition. “Playing and competing for Gold in both Olympics was a tribute to both teams,” stressed Joseph. “We were ranked 7th and 8th respectfully, both coaching staff’s had us totally prepared and confident to achieve Gold. All the players were committed to conditioning, execution of team systems, but most of all we had the team chemistry necessary to overcome adversity.”
“We really were a family unit and I attribute that to the fact that we were together for months prior to Olympics, and some players a couple of years,” Joseph went on to explain.
The pressure to win it all on that stage can be crippling for any athlete and team, especially one representing hockey crazed Canada.
“Quite honestly, the pressure of the games was overcome by the belief in each other and the preparation that the staff instilled in us,” Joseph recalled. “We not only were prepared from a hockey perspective, but also from a sport science perspective. Whether it was conditioning with Howie Wenger, a pioneer in hockey conditioning or mental skills training with Cal Botterill and Wayne Halliwell, they prepared us for overcoming any adversity,”
The current version of the Men’s hockey team might not feature NHL standouts like years previous. Joseph has a unique perspective being part of the last teams not to have NHL talent laden rosters.
“In both Olympics, we had players that had lengthy NHL careers and players that were in the middle of their careers,” Joseph said.
One of the most recognizable names in 1992 were future Hockey Hall of Famer Eric Lindros, and long-time NHL netminder and current GM of 2018 Olympic team Sean Burke, and Joe Juneau who led that tournament in scoring with 15 points and who went on to play over 500 games in the NHL.
In 1994, another future Hockey Hall of Famer Paul Kariya played while Peter Nedved and Corey Hirsch were other notable NHL names. “The success in both Olympics was due to the leadership of both our coaching staff’s,” said Joseph.
Current Olympic assistant coach Dave King was the Head Coach of the 1992 team with Terry Crisp and Guy Charron as the assistants, while Tom Renney and Danny Dube took over the reins in 1994. Joseph also credits GM George Kingston and Head Scout Paul Henry for being instrumental in building the 1994 team.
Joseph’s believes both the 1992 and 1994 Olympic teams left an indelible mark on Canadian hockey history. “We represented Canada in small communities and big centers throughout North America and Europe, playing in exhibition series and international tournaments,” said Joseph. “We all realized that we were not alone and that the whole nation was behind us in our quest for Gold.”
Joseph recalls one particular unique and motivating speech delivered by another fellow Olympic athlete. “I remember Myriam Bedard talking to us before the gold medal game, as she had just won Gold, we all saw that gold medal and although we couldn’t touch it, it served as motivation.”
Joseph also remembers the agony of defeat losing in heartbreaking fashion in 1994 to perhaps the most famous Olympic goals ever scored by Sweden’s Peter Forsberg.
“Even in the Gold medal games we felt confident that we could win because we seemed to be getting better with each game,” remembered Joseph. “As time passes, we were very proud of our accomplishment considering the fact that we were ranked 7th and 8th.
“Did we get silver or win white gold, sure felt like white gold after time passed, but it was very devastating at the time”
Joseph remains a pivotal figure in the history of the game from a Maritime perspective as well as an inspiration for countless young people looking to find and fulfill their own unique hockey dreams.