Updated: January 7, 2014 9:03PM
Patrick Sharp insisted he was being honest when he said he wasn’t dwelling on his Olympic dreams, that he was serious when he said he wasn’t motivated by them. But even Sharp had to admit the last few days, waiting for Team Canada to reveal its 25-man roster, were “pretty stressful.”
So for a few days, at least, Sharp was like millions of other hockey fans around the globe — scouring the Internet for predictions, for speculation, for any hint of who’d be in and who’d be out.
“Since the New Jersey game, really, it was kind of on my mind,” Sharp said. “The past couple of days, it’s been tough to go to sleep. You’re reading a lot of reports and trying to get as much information as you can.”
But when the call he’d been waiting for finally came — Blues general manager Doug Armstrong telling him he’d made maybe the toughest team to make in hockey history — Sharp was in the shower.
“I had my phone with me the whole time,” Sharp said. “I was surprised I didn’t have it in the shower with me.”
That’s what the Olympics mean to the 10 Blackhawks who were chosen by their countries to play in Russia next month. Sharp has won two Stanley Cups, and every other Hawk who was chosen has won at least one. Six of them have previously played in the Olympics. But the thought of putting on their country’s sweater still resonates.
“I’m excited, it’s obviously a huge honor,” said Duncan Keith, who was a lock for Canada. “That gets said a lot, but it really is. You look at all the people who play hockey in Canada, to represent the country is very special.”
Sharp, Keith and Jonathan Toews were chosen by Canada, which passed on Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford. All three Swedish Hawks — Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya and Marcus Kruger — were picked. Marian Hossa and Michal Handzus will play for Slovakia, and Patrick Kane (United States) and Michal Rozsival (Czech Republic) already had been chosen.
The Hawks, along with the Blues and Red Wings, led the NHL with 10 Olympians each. As the 10 lined up in the corner of the rink Tuesday to pose for a group photo as the morning practice wound down, Andrew Shaw — of course, it was Shaw — tried to sneak his way into the shot.
“He’s probably going to try to get in some hockey bag or something and try to get there,” Hjalmarsson joked.
Ten is plenty. In fact, it’s an awful lot. Fully half a gameday roster will be traveling to the other side of the world to play up to seven high-intensity games while the majority of the league gets nearly three weeks off to heal and rest for the seven-week sprint to the playoffs. It’s a lot of wear and tear, particularly for veterans such as Hossa and Handzus.
“Those guys are pretty smart guys,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “They take care of themselves.”
Several players pointed out that, in 2010, the Hawks had six players go to Vancouver for the Olympics, still a fair amount, before they won the Stanley Cup.
“It went pretty good that year,” said Hjalmarsson, who said he benefitted from the time off in 2010, but that the Olympians were sharper coming out of the break. “Hopefully, we could do something like that again.”
With the speculation and tension at last behind them, the Hawks can focus on the next five weeks of NHL play before turning their attention back to Russia.
Though there’ll surely be a little trash talk in the meantime.
“A little bit, little bit,” said Toews, a possible captain for Canada. “I think most of all it’s great to see how many world-class players we have in our room. . . . To have 10 guys in our room is pretty special. It goes to show why we’re such a good team.”