It’s Olympic time, and finally all of the men’s hockey rosters have been announced. Twelve countries will compete in Sochi, Russia for the gold medal starting on February 13th. Several current and former Pittsburgh Penguins were named to their respective nation’s team.
First, USA Hockey announced their roster on New Year’s Day, following the completion of the NHL Winter Classic. Along with coaches Dan Bylsma and Tony Granato and General Manager Ray Shero, the Penguins will also be sending defensemen Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik to Russia. Orpik and Martin will probably be used in the similar shutdown role that they fill in Pittsburgh. This is Orpik’s second Olympic appearance, winning a silver medal in 2010 in Vancouver. Paul Martin was named to the US squad in 2010, but had to withdraw due to a broken arm.
Of all of the countries competing in Sochi, none have more former Penguins than the Czech Republic. Highlighting all the names on the roster is Jaromir Jagr. The forty-one year old Jagr spent eleven years in Pittsburgh, and currently sits second behind only Mario Lemieux in games played, goals, assists, and points. In a more surprising addition, Petr Nedved was named to the roster at forty-two years young. Nedved spent only spent two seasons with the Penguins, but scored one of the franchise’s biggest goals in game four of the 1996 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Washington Capitals. Joining Jagr and Nedved are defensemen Zbynek Michalek and Michal Rozsival. Like Nedved, Michalek only spent two seasons in Pittsburgh before getting traded back to the Phoenix Coyotes. Rozsival started his career in the Penguins organization and spent four seasons with the team before starting his journey around the NHL. The thirty-five year old finally won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013. As you can see, age did not matter to the Czech selection committee.
In addition to Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik, the Penguins are also sending Jussi Jokinen and Olli Maatta off of their current roster to the winter games as a part of Team Finland. The nineteen-year old Maatta will be making his Olymic debut while Jokinen will be playing in his second Olympic games, winning a silver medal in the Turino games in 2006.
The lone Pittsburgh representative on Team Russia is, of course, Evgeni Malkin. Malkin will be making his third Olympic appearance, his first becoming at age nineteen. Russia finished a disappointing sixth in 2010, but Malkin led the team in scoring with six points in four games. In his two previous Olympic experiences, Evgeni Malkin has failed to win a medal of any kind. Missing from this year’s Russian squad is Aleksey Morozov. Morozov was on the 1998 team that won the silver medal in Nagano, but didn’t appear on another Olympic roster until 2010 in Vancouver. Morozov was a Penguin during the not-so-successful “X-Generation” era, and was able to survive to have quite the career in Russia. At one point, the Russian was considered one of the top players outside the NHL. He will be missed in Sochi.
Speaking of those who survived the “X-Generation” era (*pours one out for Rico Fata*), Tomas Surovy is still playing overseas and was named to the Slovakian team. Now thirty-two years old, Surovy was Pittsburgh’s fourth round selection of the 2001 NHL Draft, and scored fifty-nine points in three seasons with the Penguins. Joining Surovy is Marian Hossa. Hossa was in Pittsburgh for a cup of coffee after being traded from the now-defunct Atlanta Thrashers along with Pascal Dupuis at the 2008 trade deadline. Hossa helped bring the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Final before bolting for the Detroit Red Wings the following season.
Lastly, there is Hockey Canada. They delayed the announcement as long as they could, but the team was finally announced on Tuesday morning. Two current Penguins were named to Team Canada, and they are Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. Crosby being named to the team is the definition of a “no-brainer,” but Kunitz being selected was a little bit of a surprise. People in Pittsburgh will say they weren’t surprised by the addition of Kunitz, but with all the depth Canada has, there was a feeling that he would be overshadowed. It may be safe to assume that Chris Kunitz was brought in to play with Crosby since they already have that chemistry with the Penguins. Sidenote, former Penguin Dan Hamhuis was also named to Team Canada. Hamhuis was a Penguin for about eighteen hours in 2010, but failed to come to an agreement on a contract and became a free agent.
Ok, that’s all of them. Enjoy the games; they start on February 13th in Sochi, Russia.