After 12 years away, former NHL player Brian Gionta sets sights back on Olympics

Hockey veteran Brian Gionta has some unfinished business at the Winter Olympics.

The 38 year old, whose career in the NHL spanned from 2001 to 2017, is eager to return to the world stage and have a shot at winning an Olympic medal with Team USA.

SEE ALSO: Young Olympic hopeful Nathan Chen credits his success to his mom

"Every kid, as a hockey player, dreams of playing in the NHL," he told AOL.com. "The other thing you dream of is playing in the Olympics."

"I don't care what kid you are, you watch the Summer or Winter Games, you sit down for those two or three weeks and you watch it nonstop."

Gionta, who won the 2002-03 Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils early in his career and holds the team's record for most goals in a season, last played in the Winter Games in 2006. Though he jokes that his age ("I'm much older now") is the main thing that has changed since then, the real elephant in the room is the NHL's new stance barring its players from competing in the Olympics.

"In 2006, there were NHL guys," the Rochester, New York, native recalls. "We came over and disrupted the season. This year will be a little different format, a little longer experience for us."

"When I was lucky enough to [go] in 2006, it was a dream come true," he said. "Having the opportunity to possibly do it again is just unreal. At my stage in my career, at my age, you can take in more, experience more and really appreciate it for what it is."

Gionta is listed as a free agent in the NHL and most recently played for the Buffalo Sabres, where he served as a captain. He is currently signed to the practice squad for Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League.

As far as his next career move after PyeongChang 2018, the right winger says he's "open" to returning to the NHL.

"There's no real set plan," Gionta said. "If a team came calling, I'd have to think about it and see from there."

To learn more, visit teamusa.org. The Winter Olympics begin February 8.