Olympic hockey camp filled with Minnesotans thrilled to be there

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 28, 2013 - 12:55 AM

The State of Hockey is providing a big share of present and future contenders for the U.S. Olympic hockey team.

hide

Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, left, a member of the 2013 USA Hockey men’s team, shook hands with a member of the USA Warriors, the national sled hockey team, in Arlington, Va.

Photo: Susan Walsh • Associated Press,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

 

– Wearing a dark blue jersey with the No. 42 on the back and a red, white and blue USA crest on the front, David Backes couldn’t contain his pride in being one of 48 players who unveiled the 2014 USA Olympic sweaters Tuesday.

“Just being on a second Olympic team, those words coming out of my mouth give me chills,” said Backes, the former Spring Lake Park High and Minnesota State Mankato standout. “First Olympic team in 2010, I was flabbergasted, to be honest with you. Being on a second Olympic team blows my mind. It’s so humbling.”

Backes, the captain of the St. Louis Blues, is one of 14 Minnesota-born players who spent the past three days at the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey orientation camp.

The number of Minnesotans was double the next highest state, Michigan, with seven. U.S. assistant coach Todd Richards, the former Wild coach who now coaches Columbus, says there was an undeniable pride Sunday night when players introduced themselves at the team hotel.

In fact, it seemed every other player introduced during Tuesday’s jersey ceremony was from the self-described State of Hockey.

“Obviously, we’re representing the USA, but when you heard the names, there’s a lot of pride that comes out of the state of Minnesota,” said Richards, the former Gophers defenseman and native of Crystal. “It’s what every Minnesotan takes pride in. We’re a hockey state. To have 14 guys here, that says a lot.”

The Wild’s Zach Parise is not only the most famous, but he’s also a role model for a lot of the young Minnesotans. Ask Parise which players he looked up to as a young U.S. hockey player at his first Olympic camp in 2006, and he utters names such as Bill Guerin, Chris Drury, Mike Modano and Keith Tkachuk.

None is from Minnesota. Ask the young Minnesotans at this camp, and one after another says Parise.

“It’s a cool feeling,” a blushing Parise said.

Other Minnesotans in camp were defensemen Dustin Byfuglien, Justin Faulk, Jake Gardiner, Erik Johnson, Nick Leddy, Paul Martin and Ryan McDonagh; and forwards Nick Bjugstad, Kyle Okposo, T.J. Oshie, Derek Stepan and Blake Wheeler.

Martin, a native of Elk River, a former national champion with the Gophers and a Pittsburgh Penguins veteran, badly wants to make the 2014 team. In 2006, he and former Wild center Matt Cullen were members of the U.S. taxi squad in Torino, Italy. But they didn’t stay in the Olympic Village, didn’t get in a game and weren’t part of most team activities.

In 2010, Martin was a lock to make the U.S. team in Vancouver until a broken forearm ruined his Olympic dream.

“That’s been my biggest disappointment as an athlete to this point,” Martin said. “It took a long time for me to accept the fact that I wasn’t going. It was fun to watch. The guys did great. Selfishly, I wish I could have been there. I think that makes this opportunity that much more special for me just being able to hopefully get a chance to finally play a game.”

This is also a dream for Richards, who was cut from the 1988 Olympic team.

“As a kid growing up in Minnesota, you always dream of the Olympics,” Richards said. “The progression back when I played was high school, college for a couple years and then the Olympics. And I didn’t make the team. So I lost that opportunity. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get another opportunity.”

The 2013-14 season will be, for about half the players at the camp, “a tryout,”as Gardiner called it. So a youngster like Stepan, a Rangers forward, must prove himself, although the Hastings native has a tremendous shot because center is the one position where the U.S. lacks depth. Then there are young puck-moving defensemen such as Minnetonka’s Gardiner and Eden Prairie’s Leddy.

On the international ice sheet — 15 feet wider than an NHL rink — skating “is more at a premium, so I think that suits Jake’s game perfectly,” said forward James van Riemsdyk, a Minnesota resident who is Gardiner’s camp roommate and Toronto Maple Leafs teammate.

Youngsters such as Blaine’s Bjugstad and South St. Paul’s Faulk are longshots, but orientation camp was still a positive experience.

“I don’t know if it’s the time for every one of these younger guys, but I do know USA Hockey has a bright future ahead of us,” said David Poile, general manager of the U.S. Olympic team. “I clearly see our present and I clearly see our future.”

And many players in it come by way of Minnesota.

  • related content

  • Russo: Projecting the 2014 U.S. Olympic men's hockey roster

    Tuesday August 27, 2013

    The U.S. Olympic men's orientation camp came to a close today with the unveiling of the 2014 sweaters

  • Parises have twins on the way

    Tuesday August 27, 2013

    Like Joe Mauer last month, the Wild star will become a father for the first time -- and to twins.

  • Wild announces TV schedule

    Tuesday August 27, 2013

    The team will have 70 games on FSN or FSN+, and the remaining 12 on NBCSN.

  • Dustin Byfuglien, a native Minnesotan who play for the Winnipeg Jets, modeled the new 2014 USA Olympic sweater.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Houston 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 17 2nd Qtr
Cleveland 21
New Orleans 28 1st Qtr 0:26
Washington 12
Milwaukee 6:30 PM
New York
Philadelphia 6:30 PM
Brooklyn
Charlotte 6:30 PM
Atlanta
Sacramento 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Memphis 7:30 PM
Dallas
Tampa Bay 8:30 PM
Edmonton
Arkansas State 10/21/14 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Ottawa 6 FINAL
Hamilton 16
Montreal 20 FINAL
Toronto 12
Calgary 33 FINAL
Winnipeg 23
Edmonton 24 FINAL
Saskatchewan 19
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite Wild player?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close