The calm, cool quotes Patrick Sharp gave about his Team Canada chances these last few weeks belied what he really felt inside: he wanted to make this team so bad he could taste it.
On Tuesday, he did.
Sharp joined his Chicago Blackhawks teammates Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews in making Team Canada for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi. For Sharp, who will make his first Olympic appearance, the confirmation was a relief-filled, welcome one.
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“It was pretty stressful,” he said following Tuesday’s practice at Johnny’s IceHouse West. “I wasn’t lying when I said all season I wasn’t thinking about it. I was just focused on playing good hockey. But since the New Jersey game, really, it was kind of on my mind. 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. I’m glad it all worked out.”
The Team Canada selections ended a banner day for the Blackhawks, who will send 10 to the Winter Olympics (tied with the St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings for most in the NHL). Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya and Marcus Kruger were named to Team Sweden; Marian Hossa and Michal Handzus to Slovakia’s squad; Michal Rozsival will play for the Czech Republic and Patrick Kane is again playing for Team USA.
“It’s quite a day; congrats to all of them,” general manager Stan Bowman said. “It shows we have a lot of good players here, and a few who didn’t make it. But when you look at the guys who are on there, they really deserved it. The way Sharp’s played the last couple months, really all season long, you could tell he was hungry to get on the team and very well deserved. We’re happy for all of them.”
Sharp admitted he was envious in 2010 when Keith, Toews and Brent Seabrook helped lead Team Canada win the gold medal in Vancouver.
“I was really jealous; I really wanted to be a part of it this time around. It’s a good test to play against the best hockey players in the world. It’s a pretty big stage,” he said. “You put all those things together and it’s very exciting.”
Keith and Toews were considered locks to join the 2014 team, although neither player was assuming anything. And as far as prepping Sharp for the experience, Keith said he’ll let the Blackhawks winger see it for himself.
“Sharp’s been in the NHL for a long time, he’s been through a lot of playoff games and a lot of battles. I don’t think there’s anything I can say to him that’s going to get him prepared,” Keith said. “He’s played in pressure situations before, he’s a superstar in the league. So I think he’s just going to go there and have fun and experience it for himself.”
Whether or not Toews is named Team Canada’s captain remains to be seen. The now-retired Scott Nidermayer captained the 2010 team and Sidney Crosby, who wore one of the “A”s during that tournament, seems the likely captain this season. Either way, Toews is excited about Team Canada’s potential.
“It’s pretty young. There are a lot of new faces there,” Toews said of the squad. “At some time or another a lot of guys have had the chance to play for Team Canada (in international competition). Maybe it’s not the same as the Olympics, but it’s always the same excitement and the same opportunity to go out there and play for your country. You know pretty much every single person around Canada is going to be watching. There’s a lot of experience there, a lot of talent. It’s going to be fun to be a part of that group.”
Sharp already had an impressive resume that includes the two Stanley Cups he’s won here. He can add one more highlight to it now.
“It’s tough to rank them,” Sharp said. “Winning two Stanley Cups stands out as the highlights of my career but playing for Team Canada was a huge goal of mine on an individual level. And to be able to make that come true means a lot to me.”