COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Saying he was ”extremely disappointed,” Columbus Blue Jackets forward Marian Gaborik had to withdraw from the Slovakian Olympic team on Thursday because he is not fully recovered from a broken collarbone.
Forward Branko Radivojevic will replace Gaborik on the team.
Gaborik had been selected in January for his third Olympics playing for his native land, with team officials banking on him making a fast recovery from the injury and surgery. But doctors did not clear him to play.
Gaborik, who was in Los Angeles traveling with the Blue Jackets even though he cannot play yet, was clearly upset that he would miss out.
”I’m extremely disappointed that I won’t be able to play for Slovakia at the Olympic Games but understand the decision is the right one for my recovery and for the national team,” he said in a statement issued by the Blue Jackets. ”I have been lucky and proud to represent my country at two Olympic Games and other international tournaments and look forward to doing so again in the future.”
Gaborik was injured on Dec. 21 in a game against the Philadelphia Flyers and underwent surgery soon after.
The 31-year-old native of Trencin, Slovakia, has represented his country at the Olympics (in 2006 and 2010), the IIHF World Championships (2001, 2004, 2005 & 2007), the World Cup of Hockey (2004), IIHF World Junior Championships (in 2000 and also winning a bronze in 1999), IIHF World U18 Championships (1999 & 2000) and IIHF European Junior Championships (1998).
Gaborik has five goals and seven assists in 18 games for the Blue Jackets this season, and has totaled 341 goals and 345 assists in 787 career NHL games with Columbus, the New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild.
Just in the past couple of weeks, Gaborik has been skating on his own in the first step toward playing. He has recently joined his teammates in practice, but has not faced contact.
”Marian has worked extremely hard and done everything possible to rehabilitate his injury and return to the ice with the hope of representing his country in Sochi,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. ”We share his deep disappointment that he will not be able to do so, but are optimistic that he will be fully recovered very soon.”