Michael Grabner has something special to look forward to next February. Austria, Grabner’s native country, qualified for the 2014 Winter Olympics hockey tournament in Sochi, Russia, with a 3-2 overtime loss to Germany on Sunday — Austria needed only one point to win the qualifying group. Grabner, who played for his hometown Villach during the lockout, will certainly be on the Olympic roster if the NHL and its players association agree on participation, which seems assured.
“I’ve only ever watched on TV,” said Grabner, who played in the qualifying tournament before the 2010 Games in Vancouver when Austria failed to qualify. “It’s going to be something to always remember.”
Austria last reached the Olympics in 2002, and the only NHLer on that squad was former Islander and Ranger Thomas Pock. Grabner and Thomas Vanek, the NHL’s leading scorer, will headline a different-looking squad in 2014.
Ted Nolan, the former Islanders coach, led Latvia through Olympic qualifying as well this past weekend. Slovenia, coached by the Kings’ Anze Kopitar’s father, Matjaz, pulled off the biggest surprise, advancing with a win over favored host Denmark.