Earlier this week, several of the younger Bruins weighed in on what it would mean to one day be a member of Team USA at the Olympics, which is looking to build off of its silver medal performance in Vancouver four years ago.
“There’s not many Americans on this [Bruins] team,” said defenseman Torey Krug. “So, in a few years, you really wish you could be in a position to help out with the Olympic team and represent the Bruins in that way.
“Obviously we have a lot of guys [here] representing other countries, so it would be nice if someone could finally represent the US.”
Krug is second to only Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien this season in goals by an American defenseman, with Byfuglien having the advantage of his team having three more games played. Krug was the subject of debate earlier this year as to whether he should be heading to Sochi despite playing just 74 career NHL games, but was ultimately left off the roster.
Fellow young Americans Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller said that they too would like get the chance to make Team USA someday, but for now they’re just excited to watch the Winter Olympics as the Games officially get underway.
“Playing in the [NHL] now, you always want to get better and hopefully, once you get better and play your best, you like to think that maybe someday you could play at that level,” Bartkowski said. “I just like watching the Olympics, not just hockey, everything.”
“It would just be cool to kind of see your country out there,” said Miller. “Every four years it comes around so it’s pretty special. It would be cool to play one day, but still it’s kind of more rooting on your country.”
The Bruins are sending five players from five different countries to the 2014 Winter Olympics: Zdeno Chara for Slovakia; Patrice Bergeron for Canada; David Krejci for the Czech Republic; Tuukka Rask for Finland; and Loui Eriksson for Sweden.
“It’s going to be different; definitely an experience,” said Rask on his excitement level heading into his first Olympics. “Really don’t know what to expect. It’s a short tournament, but then again, there’s all sorts of stuff going on, other events, too. It’s kind of different, but I’m really excited.”
Rask said that he wasn't sure if he would be the starting goaltender for Team Finland.
"I don’t know, we’ll see when we go there,” he said. “I’m sure we’re going to have a talk with the coach to see what the role is, but I’m okay with it, whatever it is. If I get to play, that’s great; if not, then you just get your rest. We’ll see.”
Chara has an extra opportunity that his other teammates who are going to the Games won't. He was selected by Team Slovakia to carry the country’s flag in the opening ceremonies.
Chara left the Bruins to head to Sochi after their 3-1 win against Vancouver on Tuesday, and the team knows what an honor that selection is for their captain.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it’s definitely a huge honor as an athlete to be a part of something like this and be the flag bearer for your country,” said Milan Lucic. “I’m happy for him; I’m thrilled for him that he gets to do this and have this opportunity, and I know we’ll all be watching to see how he does.”
“As an individual, when you get to carry your country's flag, it means they think a lot of you,” said coach Claude Julien. “He’s done a lot of things in his career and building his career to earn that [selection]; he went from someone that nobody thought could ever play this game, let alone at the level he’s at right now. He’s become an elite player at this level; he’s represented his country every time he’s had a chance with pride, and he’s become a leader on that team.
“There’s a lot of things he has done off the ice; he’s a true professional, very classy, goes out of his way to do a lot of things that aren’t necessary, but he’s feels that are important, so I think he’s really earned the opportunity to do that, and I think they made a good choice.”