Pavelski, Suter, Rafalski and Kessel named to U.S. Olympic hockey team

2010-01-01T15:35:00Z 2011-10-07T12:57:04Z Pavelski, Suter, Rafalski and Kessel named to U.S. Olympic hockey teamThe Associated Press The Associated Press
January 01, 2010 3:35 pm  • 

Ryan Suter will carry on the family tradition by skating for the United States men's hockey team at the upcoming Vancouver Olympics.

The Madison native and former University of Wisconsin defenseman was one of four players with area ties named to the 23-man roster on Friday, joining ex-Badgers Brian Rafalski and Joe Pavelski as well as Madison native Phil Kessel.

Suter, a defenseman for the Nashville Predators, wasn't born when his father, Bob, helped the U.S. capture its most recent Olympic gold medal with the 1980 team that was immortalized by the "Miracle on Ice," a victory over the mighty Soviet Union that is regarded as the greatest moment in sports in the 20th century.

But Suter -- who turns 25 on Jan. 21 -- was able to watch his uncle Gary represent the U.S. in the 1998 Olympics and bring home a silver medal in 2002.

"It means a ton with the family tradition. I don't think it has sunk in yet," Ryan Suter said. "I will be able to sit at the same table with those guys if I bring some hardware home."

The U.S. has only that 2002 silver medal since NHL players started going to the Olympics for the 1998 Nagano Games. The Americans finished eighth in Turin in 2006.

"Obviously, they pick you for a reason. I think everybody on the team is an important piece," Suter said. "I credit guys like (Chris) Chelios, (Keith) Tkachuk, my uncle (Gary Suter) and (Jeremy) Roenick, all those guys paved the way for us and put USA Hockey on the map in the Olympics. I'm just excited to be a part of that now."

In all, there will be five players with area ties participating in the Olympics, which begin Feb. 12 in Vancouver. Ex-Badger Dany Heatley, a 28-year-old wing with the San Jose Sharks who hails from Calgary, Alberta, will skate for Canada.

At 36, Rafalski -- a defenseman for the Detroit Red Wings -- will be the oldest player on the roster and one of just three with previous Olympic experience, along with Jamie Langenbrunner and Chris Drury.

Pavelski, 25, a Plover native, was a member of the Badgers' 2006 NCAA championship team and is in his fourth NHL season with San Jose.

Kessel, 22, skated collegiately at Minnesota and is in his fourth NHL season, but first with Toronto.

Former UW skater Jim Johannson, the assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey, helped select the team.

Aging American stalwarts such as Mike Modano, Bill Guerin, Keith Tkachuk and Scott Gomez will all be able to rest during the long break in February because they were left off the team that will head to Vancouver.

The infusion of up-and-coming players is hardly a surprise. Team USA general manager Brian Burke made it clear last summer is was time to turn the page on those who represented the United States time and time again on the international stage.

"We're going there to win," said Burke, the Toronto Maple Leafs' GM.

He thanked those "warriors" when most veterans weren't invited to the team's orientation camp in August. Modano, the longtime Dallas Stars forward, and Montreal's Gomez were in attendance, but didn't do enough during the first half of the NHL season to earn a spot on the team.

The roster announcement was made at Boston's Fenway Park following the host Bruins' 2-1 overtime victory against the Philadelphia Flyers in the annual outdoor Winter Classic.

The average age of this year's club is slightly under 26, with Chicago Blackhawks star forward Patrick Kane the youngest at 21. That is quite a change from the former foundation that included Chelios, then a 44-year-old defenseman.

Modano played in three Olympics, and Gomez was on the team for the 2006 Turin Games. Langenbrunner will be making his second appearance, but first since 1998, and will be joined by Devils teammates defenseman Paul Martin and fellow forward Zach Parise.

Martin started the season as a virtual lock, but a broken left forearm curtailed his chances. Just when it seemed he would return last week, Martin had a setback in his recovery that made surgery necessary. When it was revealed he would be out another month, it seemed likely he would be kept off the roster.

The Los Angeles Kings are the only other NHL club to place three players on the squad: goalie Jonathan Quick, defenseman Jack Johnson, and forward Dustin Brown.

The Americans' greatest strength could be in goal, where Buffalo Sabres star Ryan Miller is expected to be the No. 1 netminder. Should he falter, reigning Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas of the Bruins will be there to pick up the slack. Behind them is the soon-to-be-23 Quick.

"I've been waiting 30 years for this opportunity. I couldn't be happier," Thomas said after beating the Flyers.

That trio should match up favorably with host Canada's formidable goalie crew of Martin Brodeur, Marc-Andre Fleury and Roberto Luongo. Brodeur is the NHL career leader in wins and shutouts.

"The goaltending position was probably the easiest one for us to get through," Burke said. "It's one where we've got some depth.

"We're excited about our chances."

Miller missed the Olympics four years ago because of a thumb injury that kept him out early in the 2005-06 season, but he is making up for that. Heading into Friday, he had a 21-8-3 record with a sparkling 2.05 goals-against average in 33 games.

"He has played really well, unfortunately several of those games have been against us," Burke said.

The 25-year-old Parise will be counted on for offense. He is coming off a season in which he had 45 goals and 94 points. So far this season, Parise has 17 goals and 25 assists. He had gone 12 games without a goal before busting out with two Monday in New Jersey's win over Atlanta.

He will be joined up front by St. Louis' David Backes, Drury's Rangers teammate Ryan Callahan, Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks, Kessel, Tampa Bay forward Ryan Malone, Pavelski, Bobby Ryan of the Anaheim Ducks, and Colorado's Paul Stastny.

The remaining defensemen are Erik Johnson of St. Louis, Toronto's Mike Komisarek, Brooks Orpik of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Suter.

This year's team will be led by Toronto coach Ron Wilson. His assistants are Rangers coach John Tortorella and the New York Islanders' Scott Gordon.

Burke was joined by Johannson, fellow NHL GMs David Poile (Nashville), Paul Holmgren (Philadelphia), Don Waddell (Atlanta), Dean Lombardi (Los Angeles) and Ray Shero (Pittsburgh) in choosing the roster.

"We had some difficult decisions to make, but that's a credit to USA Hockey and depth of the player pool in our country," Burke said.

Roster

Forwards (13)

David Backes, Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan, Chris Drury, Patrick Kane, Ryan Kesler, Phil Kessel, Jamie Langenbrunner, Ryan Malone, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, Bobby Ryan, Paul Stastny

Defensemen (7)

Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson, Mike Komisarek, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Brian Rafalski, Ryan Suter

Goaltenders (3)

Ryan Miller, Jonathan Quick, Tim Thomas

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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