GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Continuing the Grand Rapids Griffins’ long and storied history with the Olympic Games, eight former Griffins will take part in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, which starts this Thursday: Dick Axelsson (Sweden), Chad Billins (USA), Chris Chelios (USA), Chris Kelly (Canada), Alexey Marchenko (Olympic Athletes from Russia), Jan Mursak (Slovenia), Jim Paek (Korea) and Brock Radunske (Korea).
Six of the 12 participating teams will include a former Griffins player or coach, and 14 of the 18 Preliminary Round games will involve at least one of these alumni. The Olympic Men’s Hockey schedule can be found here.
A record 11 Griffins alumni participated in the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia; five players have skated in the Olympics while on Grand Rapids’ active roster; 20 alumni have donned their nations’ colors after concluding their Griffins careers; and 15 players participated in the Olympics prior to starting in Grand Rapids.
In the 2006 Games in Turin, Italy, Niklas Kronwall became the first Griffins alumnus to earn an Olympic medal, winning gold thanks to Sweden’s victory over Finland in the championship game. Valtteri Filppula became the second to medal in 2010 in Vancouver, earning a bronze with Finland. Kronwall then became the only former Griffin to win two Olympic medals by taking silver in Sochi alongside fellow Grand Rapids alumni Jonathan Ericsson, Jonas Gustavsson and Gustav Nyquist, completing the Olympic medal spectrum for the Griffins.
Curtis Joseph (2002), Stefan Liv (2006), Mikael Samuelsson (2006) and Slava Butsayev (1992) all earned gold medals prior to their time in Grand Rapids.
Take a look at some of the Grand Rapids and career accomplishments of the eight former Griffins competing in PyeongChang:
Dick Axelsson, forward, Sweden
Griffins notes: Appeared in 17 games during one season (2009-10) in Grand Rapids and totaled five points (2-3—5), a plus-one rating and six PIM…Eighth Griffin to represent Sweden in the Olympics.
Career notes: Drafted 62nd overall by the Red Wings in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft…Swedish Hockey League champion with Farjestads BK Karlstad in 2008-09 and 2010-11…Won a gold medal with Sweden at the 2013 IIHF World Championship and a bronze medal at the 2014 IIHF World Championship…League champion with HC Davos of the Swiss League in 2014-15…Scored 42 points (19-23—42) in 43 games with Farjestad of the Swedish Hockey League this season (through Feb. 4).
Chad Billins, defenseman, USA
Griffins notes: 2013 Calder Cup champion…Skated in all 76 games during his lone season (2012-13) in Grand Rapids and tallied 37 points (10-27—37), a plus-four rating and 40 PIM…Established a franchise record for most points by a first-year defenseman, a mark that stood until Robbie Russo broke it in 2015-16…Ranked 12th among AHL defensemen in scoring and fifth among rookie blueliners…Added 14 points (2-12—14) in 24 Calder Cup Playoff games, the most among league defensemen…2013 AHL All-Star Classic participant…Became the 136th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL when he debuted with the Calgary Flames on Nov. 5, 2013 at Minnesota…Grand Rapids’ AHL Man of the Year Nominee for his community involvement…Seventh Griffin to play for Team USA.
Career notes: Native of Marysville, Mich....Played four seasons (2008-12) at Ferris State University, scoring 67 points (17-50—67) in 149 games…Appeared in 10 career NHL games, all with Calgary, and contributed three assists…Spent time in the KHL (2014-15) and Swedish Hockey League (2014-16; 17-18)…Tallied 22 points (4-18—22) in 43 games with Linkoping of the Swedish Hockey League this season (through Feb. 4).
Chris Chelios, assistant coach, USA
Griffins notes: Appeared in two games during the 2008-09 season, contributing one assist, an even rating and two PIM…Became the 99th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL when he returned to Detroit on Dec. 13, 2008 at Phoenix.
Career notes: Inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013…Played 26 seasons in the NHL (1983-2010) with four teams, Montreal, Chicago, Detroit and Atlanta…Won three Stanley Cups (Montreal in 1986, Detroit in 2002 and 2008)…Played the most games by a defenseman in NHL history (1,651) and was the only player in league history to play in over 400 games for three different teams (Chicago-664, Detroit-578, Montreal-402)…Played the fourth-most regular-season games in NHL history and the most postseason games in league history (266)…Won three Norris Trophies as the league’s best defenseman (1989, 1993, 1996)…Represented the United States at four Olympic Games (1984, 1988, 2002, 2006), three Canada Cups (1984, 1987, 1991), two World Cup of Hockey events (1996, 2004) and one World Junior Championship (1982)…Helped Team USA win the 1996 World Cup of Hockey and a silver medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Chris Kelly, forward, Canada
Griffins notes: Played in one season (2001-02) and posted six points (3-3—6), an even rating and 20 PIM in 31 regular season GP…Added two points (1-1—2), an even rating and five PIM in five Calder Cup Playoff games…Became the 66th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL when he debuted with the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 5, 2004 vs. Toronto…Third Griffin to play for Canada in the Olympics.
Career notes: Won the 2011 Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins…94th overall selection in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft by the Ottawa Senators…Appeared in 833 career NHL games with two teams (Ottawa, Boston) and scored 289 points (123-166—289) from 2003-17…Skated in 16 games with the AHL’s Belleville Senators this season, showing two assists and 10 PIM.
Alexey Marchenko, defenseman, Olympic Athletes from Russia
(After the International Olympic Committee’s suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee due to doping allegations, clean Russian athletes have been invited to compete as Olympic Athletes from Russia under a neutral flag at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.)
Griffins notes: Skated with the Griffins from 2013-16 and tallied 38 points, a plus-31 rating and 42 PIM in 104 regular season GP…Added four points (0-4—4), a minus-two rating and two PIM in 11 Calder Cup Playoff games…Helped Grand Rapids advance to the 2015 Western Conference Finals…Participated in the 2014 AHL All-Star Classic…Became the 140th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL when he debuted with Detroit on Jan. 4, 2014 at Dallas.
Career notes: 205th overall selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by Detroit…Skated in 121 career NHL games between Detroit and Toronto, tallying 21 points (4-17—21), a plus-five rating and 26 PIM…Won a bronze medal with Russia at the 2016 IIHF World Championship…Played five seasons with CSKA Moscow (2009-13; 17-18)…In the KHL this season, he has posted 14 points (2-12—14) and a plus-eight rating in 40 games.
Jan Mursak, forward, Slovenia
Griffins notes: 2013 Calder Cup champion…Appeared in 213 games over parts of six seasons (2006-07; 08-13), totaling 103 points (43-60—103), a plus-41 rating and 120 PIM…Scored 20 points (11-9—20), a plus-17 rating and 28 PIM in 36 Calder Cup Playoff games…Became the 112th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL when he debuted with the Red Wings on Dec. 27, 2010 at Colorado…Only former Griffin to play for Slovenia in the Olympics, he makes his second straight appearance at the Games.
Career notes: 182nd overall selection in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by Detroit…Skated in 46 NHL games, all with the Red Wings, and scored four points (2-2—4)…Played in the Austrian League (2012-13), KHL (2013-18) and Swedish League (2017-18)…Represented Slovenia at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and finished seventh…Scored 10 points (5-5—10) in 22 games between the KHL and Sweden this season.
Jim Paek, head coach, Korea
Griffins notes: 2013 Calder Cup champion…Longest-tenured coach in franchise history…Assistant coach from 2005-14, during which the Griffins posted a 357-272-33-46 record (0.560)…During his time in Grand Rapids, helped the Griffins win the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as the AHL regular season champions in 2005-06 and the Bud Poile Trophy as Midwest Division Champions in 2012-13 and 2014-15…Served as an assistant under Greg Ireland (2005-07), Mike Stothers (2007-08), Curt Fraser (2008-2012) and Jeff Blashill (2012-14).
Career notes: Named the director of hockey for the Korea Ice Hockey Association and head coach of the Korean Men’s National Team in July 2014…Won the Stanley Cup twice as a player, 1991 and 1992 with the Pittsburgh Penguins…170th overall selection by Pittsburgh in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft…Appeared in 217 career NHL games over five seasons between Pittsburgh (1990-94), Los Angeles (1993-94) and Ottawa (1994-95)…Tallied 34 points (5-29—34) and 155 PIM in the NHL from his blueline position…Won the IHL’s Turner Cup twice as a player, 1989 with Muskegon and 1999 with Houston.
Brock Radunske, forward, Korea
Griffins notes: Played one season (2006-07) and totaled two points (2-0—2) and 12 PIM in 20 games…First Griffin to represent Korea on the Olympic stage.
Career notes: 79th overall selection in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft by the Edmonton Oilers…Played three seasons at Michigan State (2001-04)…Helped Anyang Halla win the Asian League championship in 2010, 2011 and 2016…Skated in 23 games with Anyang this season and scored 11 points (5-6—11).