Adam Cracknell wore 19 different jerseys during a 17 season professional hockey career. That makes him the perfect tour guide for Canada’s Men’s Olympic Hockey Team when they land in Beijing next week for the Winter Games.
Cracknell, 36, knows Beijing well; he played there for the KHL’s Kunlun Red Star in the 2019-20 season.
“Yeah, I know where The Cheesecake Factory and the grocery store is, so I’m ready to go,” Cracknell said with a smile on a Zoom call from Davos, Switzerland, where the Canadian team is gearing up for the Games.
Cracknell has played with seven NHL teams and 10 AHL teams, including a 14-game stint with the Marlies three seasons ago, but he was with Kunlun, his only season on the road, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was looking for another chapter in my career, and I had the opportunity to go there, knowing there were a lot of other North Americans (playing in the KHL and with Kunlun),” said said Cracknell, who was accompanied to Beijing by his wife and two daughters. “All the players praised playing in China. The KHL is an amazing league, and I enjoyed my time there.
“When we moved to Beijing, we got to know the city. We enjoyed the culture and went to the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. I enjoyed seeing a part of the world I never thought I would play hockey in.
Cracknell, now captain of the Bakersfield Condors, Edmonton’s AHL affiliate, has played with some familiar names in Kunlun: Griffin Reinhart, Jake Chelios (Chris Chelios’ son) and Gilbert Brulé among them. Former NHL player Brandon Yip is expected to be named China captain for the Olympic tournament.
Cracknell said he and his Kunlun teammates were boarding a plane for a trip to Russia when they were told they would not be returning to China due to the COVID outbreak. The team remained in Russia, Cracknell’s family moved to Bali.
“My wife has been there to support me through most of the tough times in my career,” Cracknell said. “My family, they’ve moved with me every time I’ve been traded…they’ve been with me the whole way. I can’t say enough about what that meant to me.”
Cracknell has already donned the Canadian jersey once, winning a silver medal at the 2018 Spengler Cup.
“We all grew up as Canadians, getting up early to watch the world junior championships, the Olympics… that’s what you got up for, to support your country,” Cracknell said. “Wearing the jersey now is a dream come true.”
The six-foot-three winger didn’t expect to play for Canada, however. He was with the Kootenay Ice when Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron and Ryan Getzlaf won gold at the 2005 World Junior Tournament.
“It was the dream team,” said Cracknell, who would score 42 goals with the Ice the following season. His NHL-high is 10, with Dallas in 2016-17.
“Wearing the Canadian jersey now is special. Everyone at home is reaching out (he’s from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, but resides in Cranbrook, BC). We know hockey is life in Canada, and it’s an opportunity few of us (Olympic team members) thought we had. It is a huge honor.
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