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Selection by Canada overwhelming for Coyotes' Smith

by Jerry Brown

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When Mike Smith woke up Tuesday morning, there were already two Canadian Olympians in his house.

It took less than 10 minutes for that number to increase.

With his wife and 2010 Canadian Olympic skier Brigitte (Acton) Smith and mother-in-law, 1972 Olympian Diane Pratte looking on, Smith took a phone call from Team Canada Associate Director of Player Personnel Doug Armstrong. When the tears on his face converged with the ear-to-ear smile, everyone knew he had been selected to join Carey Price and Roberto Luongo as the goaltenders for Canada for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

"I was trying to hold back the tears," said Smith, whose eyes told all that he failed in that attempt. "Brigette's family was there today. Her mother skied in the Olympics and Brigette skied in the Olympics. The grandparents were there and were saying in their cute little French voices, 'Now there are three Olympians in the house.'

"The whole thing is pretty surreal to me."

Anticipating the impact on his goalie, Phoenix Coyoyes coach Dave Tippett had already decided, whether the news was good or bad, that he would sit Smith on Tuesday in favor of backup Thomas Griess against the Calgary Flames. Smith said he wants to play every game, but understood the decision.

Smith had the opportunity to watch his wife in Vancouver when she placed 11th in the giant slalom, 17th in the slalom and 10th in the combined for Canada. Now the roles will be reversed.

"I can't even describe the feeling," Smith said. "It's a relief just to know and have answers. It's something you think about, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about it. These opportunities only come by once in a while. It's one you want to grab on to and play well and earn your spot."

Smith thoroughly enjoyed representing Canada at the 2013 IIHF World Championship in Sweden, and he hoped that performance would help his stock as the final decisions were made. After struggles with the Tampa Bay Lightning and a stint in the American Hockey League in 2011, his career continues to reach new heights.

"It's something you dream about as a kid and I never thought I'd be in this position," he said. "I look back, (three) years ago I was in the minors not knowing if I'd ever play in the NHL again. Now here I am getting announced for the Canadian Olympic team.

"I'm speechless. It's a true honor and I'm very excited about it."

The Coyotes have five players who will take part in the Olympics. In addition to Smith, center Martin Hanzal and defenseman Zbynek Michalek will represent the Czech Republic, defenseman Oliver Ekman Larsson will skate for Sweden and forward Lauri Korpikoski will play for Finland.

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