GLENDALE – Excited. Honored. Speechless.
These are just some of the words used by the three members of the Coyotes who were selected to play in the 2014 Winter Olympics by their countries on Tuesday.
Goalie Mike Smith will play for Canada, defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson will play for Sweden, and forward Lauri Korpikoski will play for Finland.
None of them have ever played in the Winter Olympics.
"I can’t even describe the feeling," Smith said. "I was a little emotional this morning when I got the phone call from (Hockey Canada). There was a lot of buildup, obviously, to this point. It’s a relief just to know. I’m truly honored."
Smith's wife Brigitte twice competed for Canada in alpine skiing in the Olympics. So did her mom. Smith is thrilled to join their club.
"I never thought I'd be in this position," Smith said. "I look back four years ago and I'm in the minors not knowing if I'd ever play in the NHL again and here I am today, getting announced to the Canadian Olympic team. I'm speechless."
Smith is one of three goalies on Canada’s roster along with Roberto Luongo and Carey Price.
Ekman-Larsson already has earned three medals playing for Sweden in international events. He has yet to win gold.
"It's always fun to put the blue and yellow jersey on," Ekman-Larsson said. "It's a big honor to play for your country. I’m happy."
Ekman-Larsson has been nursing an upper-body injury since last week but could return to the Coyotes lineup later this week. He skated with teammates at the morning skate on Tuesday.
"I’m excited to be back on the ice," Ekman-Larsson said. "I feel good out there. I will be ready to play soon."
Korpikoski has played for Finland in multiple international tournaments.
"As an individual (player), one of your goals is to play for your country so I'm really excited," Korpikoski said.
Finland earned the bronze medal in 2010 and the silver medal in 2006. Korpikoski thinks they have a good chance for another medal this time around.
"We've always done well in tournaments," Korpikoski said "…we have a lot of guys that played together in the past who know each other and know the style we play (and) obviously our goaltenders (Kari Lehtonen, Antti Niemi, and Tuukka Rask) are pretty solid. That’s a good recipe for going into a tournament."
Smith, Ekman-Larsson and Korpikoski are just three of the five Coyotes headed to the Winter Olympics. Center Martin Hanzal and defenseman Zbynek Michalek were named to the Czech Republic's team on Monday.