(HockeySTL)-- The team rosters for the 2014 Olympic Games have been submitted and the St. Louis Blues have fared well in the results.
The Blues will have ten players representing six countries in the 2014 Olympics, which will be held in Sochi, Russia in February, just a little over a month from now. The National Hockey League will shut down for more than two weeks for the Olympic Games, but a large portion of the League’s competitors will still be playing hockey.
For the Blues, 10 of their 23 players –nearly half of the team’s roster—will be joining in on the excitement of the 2014 Games.
The Blues have players from every position traveling to Sochi after six more players were named to Olympic rosters on Tuesday morning.
Alexander Steen (Sweden), Patrik Berglund (Sweden), Alex Pietrangelo (Canada), Jay Bouwmeester (Canada), Vladimir Tarasenko (Russia) and Jaroslav Halak (Slovakia) were among the players named to teams on the final day allotted to submitting rosters. Those players joined David Backes (U.S.), T.J. Oshie (U.S.), Kevin Shattenkirk (U.S.) and Vladimir Sobotka (Czech Republic), who had already been named to their respective teams before Tuesday’s deadline. Backes, Oshie and Shattenkirk were the first of the Blues players selected to compete.
With ten players headed to Sochi, the Blues are tied with the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks for the most Olympic participants. The Blues were expected to have 11 players selected but Roman Polak was snubbed from the Czech Republic team when the team’s roster was announced on Monday. Had Polak been selected, the Blues would have had the most Olympians out of all 30 NHL teams.
“The thing that I am proudest of (….) is the guys that we have that are qualified have done everything they can,” said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock. They’ve all had really, really good first halves.”
In 2010, which was the year the previous Winter Olympics were held, the Blues had just three players –Backes, Polak and Erik Johnson-- travel to Vancouver to compete. Johnson is no longer with the club and Polak, as previously mentioned, was not selected to compete. So, Backes is the only Blues player from 2010 who is making a return to the Games. This means that the club has gained nine new Olympians in the four years between the 2010 and 2014 Winter Games.
“Like ‘Hitch’ says, it’s great that we have done our jobs and have done what we need to do,” said Shattenkirk. “I think we’ve all just played a great first half. It is exciting to see some names called and to go over there in February.”
Aside from players, the Blues have personnel embedded in management positions for the Olympics as well. Hitchcock and general manager Doug Armstrong were on staff with Team Canada during the 2010 Olympics and both were selected again for the 2014 competition. Hitchcock is an assistant coach, while Armstrong is assisting Team Canada’s general manager Steve Yzerman.
With so many Olympians on roster, as well as an Olympic-worthy coaching staff, it’s not hard to fathom the Blues’ 29-7-5 record through the first half of the season. The club leads the NHL in win percentage (.768), is second in the League in goals scored (150) and has allowed the third-fewest goals against (95).
Having three Olympic defensemen, six Olympic forwards and one Olympic goaltender on roster is testament to the team’s well-rounded play this season. And the team’s level of success did nothing but help the Olympic hopefuls, who have tried to focus their attention solely on their NHL squad. But the chance to play in the Olympics was always a possibility worth pondering.
“I think (the Olympics) have always been in the back of my mind,” said Shattenkirk. “I’d definitely be lying if I didn’t tell you that but I’ve gone through it before in the World Juniors and stuff like that and I let it affect me back then. This year I really focused on the team here and what I’ve learned is if your team does well, that leads to your individual play rising.”
With so many Olympic selections on their roster, the two week break in February won’t seem like much of a break for St. Louis. Once the players return from Russia, they will turn from focusing on Olympic Gold to the prized Stanley Cup.