CHICAGO – Almost half of the Chicago Blackhawks team will be flying to Russia next month to represent their home countries in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The ten coming from the Hawks will wear the colors of five different nations in the quest for the gold with the biggest contingent representing Team Canada in their quest to repeat for the top of the podium. In the 2010 in Vancouver the Hawks were represented by six players.
The first announcement was made right after the 2014 Winter Classic at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan on New Year’s Day where the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the host Detroit Red Wings in shootout victory. On the ice stood local area youth hockey players who wore replica jerseys representing the players chosen to the USA Olympic squad. Right Wing Patrick Kane was named the only Hawk representative for Team USA. This will be Kane’s second Olympics where he will try to revenge the loss to the Canadians in the Gold Medal game. Kane is on track to having one of his best seasons ever in the National Hockey League. He is currently second in goal scoring behind Pittsburgh Penguin Sidney Crosby who will also be heading to Sochi representing Canada.
It took a long time for veteran defenseman Michal Rozsival to get to and win the Stanley Cup for the first time last season. It also took a long time for him to score his first goal with the Blackhawks. What a week it has been for the blueliner, in the game on January 5th, he scored his first goal in over 50 games with the Hawks and just a day later he was named to the Czech Republic team making his first appearance representing his home country. Joining him on the team will be Michael Frolik who was sent to the Winnipeg Jets in the off-season. The Hawks really miss Frolik as he was the core of one of the best penalty killing members on the team last season. This season the team is near the bottom.
For Team Slovakia, it will field two forwards from the Hawks in Marian Hossa and Michal Handzus where both will make their fourth appearance in the Winter Olympics. Hossa who was a stalwart in the 2010 and 2014 Stanley Cup run will be joining his brother Marcel on the team. Also on the team is Hossa’s neighbor in Slovakia and captain of last year’s Stanley Cup opponent, Boston Bruin, Zdeno Chara. Handzus who has been in the league since 1998 was brought in to the Blackhawks last season at the trading deadline for his faceoff ability was rewarded with his first Stanley Cup.
The Hawks will be sending three as Team Sweden selected an easy pairing by choosing second line defensemen Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson along with center Marcus Kruger. Kruger a fourth-year veteran will be making his first appearance in the games. He has had an average season with the Hawks where he has been relegated to the four line. Oduya will be making his second while Hjalmarsson will be making his initial appearance representing Sweden. These two has solidified the number two defensive pairing on the Hawks behind the super dual of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook who we will mention next. Hawk head coach Joel Quenneville made this second pairing so much stronger by interchanging all four defenseman at any time when he though the team needed a boost.
Finally with the last announcement goes to Team Canada who will seek to defend the Gold. Eleven players from that team will return to the lineup that includes defenseman Duncan Keith and Hawks team captain and center Jonathan Toews. Toews is in the top ten in scoring in the league but surprisingly Keith ranks fifteenth in all scoring and tops for all defenseman while third in total assists. Within that last month, the biggest push to make the team was Patrick Sharp who is in the top ten in scoring. In a five game span that began on his birthday on December 27th, he scored two hat tricks.
There were three members of the Hawks that were close to making their respective teams but didn’t make the cut. For Team USA, young left wing Brandon Saad is making a name for himself in the NHL and is personally having a great year with the Hawks scoring 15 goals for 31 points in 45 games this season. As for Team Canada, defenseman Brent Seabrook who was on the 2010 Gold Medal team didn’t make the cut but is having one of his best seasons in the NHL. Also goaltender Corey Crawford who was already on the bubble might have made it if an injury did not force him out for most of December.
Overall though, by the look of things, look for a few members of the Chicago Blackhawks to bring home some extra weight with them as they return back to Chicago with a few medals from Russia, with love.
Once the NHL season resumes, the Chicago Blackhawks will have one more “distraction” as the first game home after the Olympics will be the Stadium Series outdoors in Soldier Field at they face the Penguins on March 1st.