2021 helped to put Marvel's Captain America back into the spotlight after Chris Evans' Steve Rogers passed the torch (and vibranium shield) to Anthony Mackie's Sam Wilson in 2019's Avengers: Endgame. The title then briefly went to Wyatt Russell's John Walker early in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+ before Sam took the shield back and accepted his responsibility as an Avenger.
The big question now is when exactly the characters from the newly titled Captain America and the Winter Soldier will return, as no projects are officially on the Marvel Studios schedule yet. Mackie will reprise the role in the upcoming Captain America 4, with fans hoping that Sebastian Stan's Bucky Barnes will join him, while Russell's character is taking on a new title as the U.S. Agent.
While the MCU's on-screen story is still building, its actors are constantly busy outside of Marvel Studios, whether it be with other projects or fun events that fulfill other ambitions. As it turns out, that means a unique and exciting appearance coming up for Russell, who gets to explore his athletic roots in tandem with the National Hockey League.
Former Captain America Joining NHL Skills Competition
The official National Hockey League website announced that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier star Wyatt Russell will serve as a goalie in the Adidas NHL Breakaway Challenge. This will be a part of the 2022 NHL All-Star Skills Competition during All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Friday, February 4.
In an interview with the NHL, Russell joked around about this opportunity being a dream of his after pursuing a professional hockey career until 2010:
"I don't know if my dream was, 12 years after you're done playing hockey, get invited to literally face the best goal scorers in the world in a breakaway competition where they get to do whatever they want for however long they want. But in terms of just going out and seeing everybody in real life in that kind of arena, it'll be a fun little rush.
Having to defend the net against stars like the Chicago Blackhawks' Alex DeBrincat and the Anaheim Ducks' Trevor Zagras, Russell is simply "trying to survive" as he tries to keep pro hockey's best scorers from scoring.
"I'm looking at it like who am I just trying to survive against. I'm going to be in constant survival mode."
Russell will have a close friend in Minnesota Wild goalie Cam Talbot in town over the weekend, with Talbot making his first All-Star appearance.
The two were teammates between 2007 and 2009 at the University of Alabama-Hunstville, with Russell calling it "a weird twist of fate" that they're reuniting like this. The MCU star expressed how much he's looking forward to being in Vegas for the event, praising the NHL for making it "as fun as possible:"
"We played against each other in junior hockey before we went to college, so it's just a weird twist of fate that in the first year [Talbot] makes the All-Star Game, they also invite me. It's going to be a blast, though. The NHL is making this competition as fun as possible."
Wyatt Russell Returning to his Hockey Roots
Sports and movies are regularly linked with one another, most of the time churning out pure entertainment for fans to enjoy. While Russell's inclusion in this event is a huge win for the MCU newcomer, he simply adds his name to a growing list of stars who have dipped their toes into the world of professional athletics.
Black Panther's Michael B. Jordan laced it up at the NBA's 2018 Celebrity Game, while Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt played in the MLB's version in 2011 even before he joined the MCU. Russell's co-star, Anthony Mackie, has even appeared in both events during the last five years, showing off his basketball and baseball skills for the fans.
Marvel and pro sports have also connected in other unique ways, including Tom Hiddleston almost emulating Tom Brady in Loki and LA Lakers star LeBron James recently quoting Spider-Man: Homecoming on Instagram. Now, Russell will have the chance to take that legacy to a new level, especially with an already established hockey career under his belt.
That career came with teams in Germany and the Netherlands between 2008 and 2010 before suffering a hip injury that put his playing days at an end. Russell then pivoted to following in his parents' footsteps and becoming an actor in Hollywood, leading up to his role with Marvel Studios.
Russell grew up a diehard hockey fan for most of his life, mostly rooting for his local Los Angeles Kings in the '80s and '90s, setting him up nicely for a place in this competition. Fans will be looking forward to seeing how his goalie skills fare after so much time out of the pro game, but no matter what happens, the MCU star is sure to have a fantastic time on the ice.
The NHL's Breakaway Challenge will air at 7:30 PST on Friday, February 4, 2022. All six episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are available to stream on Disney+.