Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Malone today became the fifth member of the organization to earn a spot in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics when he was named to the roster for Team USA this afternoon. Malone, a native of Pittsburgh, PA was one of 13 forwards named to the 23-man roster by Team USA General Manager Brian Burke. He participated in Team USA’s orientation camp this summer and has gone on to have perhaps his best NHL season yet, tallying 19 goals and 16 assists in 40 games for the Lightning.
“I think it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Malone said after being named to an Olympic team for the first time in his career. “I am proud to represent my country and I look forward to seeing what we can do as a part of Team USA. It’s a great personal opportunity and an honor for any athlete, one I take seriously.”
Malone will be looked upon by Team USA head coach Ron Wilson to play the type of hockey in the Olympics that he has played for the Lightning this year, sort of a playoff style; gritty, aggressive and in-your-face. His league-leading seven game winning goals are evidence of his success in 2009-10 and that type of production will be needed from him for Team USA to be successful. Also worth noting is Malone’s age: he is 30 years old and will be looked upon for leadership by the coaching staff as 13 of the players on the Team USA roster are under the age of 25.
Even though this will be Malone’s first Olympics, it will not be his first time playing for the red, white and blue. He has played in the world championships in 2004 and 2006, winning a bronze medal with Team USA in 2006.
“We are proud of Ryan and all of our Olympians,” said Lightning Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Lawton after learning of Malone’s selection to Team USA. “Each of our players have worked hard to try and earn spots on their nation’s teams and we support them in their respective opportunities to play for their home countries. We wish them all the best of luck.”
Malone will be joined in Vancouver by Lightning teammates Mattias Ohlund (defenseman-Sweden), Andrej Meszaros (defenseman-Slovakia), and Antero Niittymaki (goaltender-Finland). Additionally, Norfolk Admirals forward and Lightning prospect Martins Karsums will be playing for Team Latvia in the games. Others Lightning players could receive opportunities to play in the games if already named players are injured and unable to play. Look for the Lightning to conduct an Olympic send-off at the team’s last home game before the Olympics begin, Thursday, February 11 against the Boston Bruins.
The NHL will take a two-week break from its regular season on February 15, so that its players may compete in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. The hiatus will allow the world best players to represent their home countries on a global stage in Vancouver. NHL teams can begin practicing again on February 24 and the Lightning’s first game after the Olympic break will be Tuesday, March 2 at home against the Philadelphia Flyers.