Brian Gionta practicing in AHL with eye on U.S. Olympic team bid


ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Brian Gionta is turning to hockey’s minor league Rochester Americans in his bid to land a spot on the U.S. men’s Olympic team.

The Buffalo Sabres‘ American Hockey League affiliate announced the 16-year NHL veteran accepted an invitation to practice with the team starting Tuesday. Gionta, 38, is from Rochester and spent the previous three seasons as the Sabres captain.

After failing to land an NHL contract this offseason, Gionta elected to remain unsigned to pursue an opportunity to represent the U.S. at the Winter Games in South Korea in February. The league is forgoing sending players to the Olympics next year in a decision that bars all players — including minor leaguers — signed to an NHL contract from competing.

Americans general manager Randy Sexton said Gionta’s role will be limited to practice. Sexton called it “a real win-win” for Gionta and the Americans because of the veteran experience the player can provide.

Gionta won a Stanley Cup with the 2003 New Jersey Devils. He also played for the Montreal Canadiens, and has 289 goals and 299 assists in 1,006 career NHL games.

A majority of the U.S. team will be made up of players currently competing in Europe. The roster will start taking form after the team competes in a three-game Deutschland Cup tournament in Germany in mid-November.

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