With the 2014 Winter Olympics from Sochi, Russia just about a month away, many countries announced their hockey rosters for the games. As a result, five members of the Phoenix Coyotes will be representing their home countries in the games.
“The Olympics are a big deal for all the countries involved,” said Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett on Tuesday. “We are certainly happy for the player on our team who were picked. Our guys are disappointed for a couple guys they thought should have been there. (Radim) Vrbata and (Keith) Yandle. But I know there were some guys that were kind of anticipating this day and get it behind them. Congratulations to the guys who got picked.”
Headlining the group is Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith who is making his first ever appearance in the Olympics representing Team Canada. He did however compete for Canada in the 2013 IIHF World Championship. In four starts he registered a 1.65 goals against average (GAA) and a .944 save percentage. Smith was emotional when the news became official and couple help but think about how far he’s come since the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver took place.
“It’s just something you dream about as a kid and I never thought I would be in this position,” stated Smith. “Looking back four years ago, I was in the minors not knowing if I would ever play in the NHL again. Here I am today getting announced the the Canadian Olympic team which is, I’m speechless. It’s a true honor and I am very excited about it.”
Two members of the Coyotes made the Czech Republic’s roster. Forward Martin Hanzel is also making his first Olympic appearance and defenseman Zbynek Michalek will be making his second.
“It’s a dream come true and a huge honor for me,” mentioned Hanzel.
“It was a goal of mine before the season started,” added Michalek. “So I am really excited that it came true.”
There are two more first time Olympians to round out the five Coyotes selected. The young defensive star Oliver Ekman-Larsson will be representing Sweden and forward Lauri Korpikoski will represent Finland.
“There are a lot of good hockey players on the roster,” explained Ekman-Larsson. “It’s going to be fun to meet everybody and to play in Sochi.”
“When you grow up, you look at those tournaments and they are a big deal back home,” mentioned Korpikoski. “Hockey is the number one sport there so they are looking forward to it and it’s a great feeling.”
Five Coyotes being selected is the most from this franchise since it moved to Phoenix and the second most since 1992.