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Relieved Sharp one of 10 Blackhawks going to Sochi

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- Patrick Sharp tried not to think about the 2014 Sochi Olympics much, but even he couldn't help it as Canada's scheduled roster revealing neared Tuesday morning.

The 32-year old Sharp, from Thunder Bay, Ontario, started mulling his chances to make the Canadian roster last week, after recording his second hat trick in a seven-day span. It was on his mind ever since, even as he stepped into the shower Tuesday morning before heading to practice.

That's when the phone rang.

"I just got out of the shower and had a voice mail," Sharp said. "I had my phone with me the whole time. I was surprised I didn't have it in the shower with me. I got a call from Doug Armstrong, the GM of St. Louis, and I called him back as soon as I could and he didn't answer. I listed to the voice mail a couple more times and confirmed that I was going. He called me right back and we had a good talk. It was a special moment."

It was also a relief. Sharp didn't talk much about it this season, but it was no secret he longed for a chance to wear Canada's red maple leaf on his chest.

"It was pretty stressful," said Sharp, who has 25 goals and 21 assists thus far and helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2010 and 2013 by leading them in goals each time. "I wasn't lying when I said all season I wasn't thinking about it. I was just focused on playing good hockey. Since the New Jersey game, really it was kind of on my mind. The past couple of days it's been tough to go to sleep. You're reading a lot of reports and trying to get as much information as you can. I'm glad it all worked out."

He's also appreciative, considering some of the talent that didn't make the grade, including Canadian teammates Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford.

"It's a special day for my family and for myself," Sharp said. "I'm proud to represent my country, my parents, my family and, of course, the Blackhawks. I'm thrilled to have gotten the call this morning. I'm looking forward to it."

Nine of his Blackhawks teammates are, as well. The defending Stanley Cup champions had 10 players named to the rosters of their home countries, with Seabrook, Crawford and Brandon Saad (United States) possible injury replacements if needed. That's tied with the St. Louis Blues for most players from one team headed to Sochi.

Aside from Sharp, the Blackhawks also had Jonathan Toews (Canada), Patrick Kane (United States), Duncan Keith (Canada), Marian Hossa (Slovakia) Niklas Hjalmarsson (Sweden), Marcus Kruger (Sweden), Michal Rozsival (Czech Republic), Johnny Oduya (Sweden) and Michal Handzus (Slovakia) selected by their countries.

Among them are four first-time Olympians: Sharp, Hjalmarsson, Kruger and Rozsival.

Kruger plays a fourth-line role primarily for the Blackhawks, centering the unit, but he's also a key component of the penalty kill by pressuring the puck.

"Everyone who's going there is going to do everything they can to make the team win and so will I," Kruger said. "I don't know how it's going to turn out with lines and things like that, but it's going to be exciting to go over there and play for Sweden."

It wasn't all smiles inside the Blackhawks locker room.

Crawford, who started every game for Chicago in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, has never competed internationally for Canada and Seabrook won a gold medal with Canada in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Both put positive spins on not being selected, but both sounded very disappointed. Seabrook said initially he was excited to get a call from a Hockey Canada on Tuesday, but that changed quickly.

"It was a tough call this morning when I got the phone call, but you know Canada's got a lot of great players," said Seabrook, who is quietly having a nice season with five goals, 26 assists and a plus-22 rating. "You saw the team they're putting out there. It's going to be a good team. I'm looking forward to watching, maybe having a few beers and relaxing over the break."

Crawford is just two games into a return from a 10-game injury absence. He didn't know whether the time away hurt his chances to be one of Canada's three goalies.

"I have no clue what they were thinking, if that was a factor or not," Crawford said. "They know how I can play. So, really, I don't know. I can't say if it was or not. It's pretty disappointing. It was definitely a goal of mine. I didn't make it, so move on, focus on our team and winning hockey games here."

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