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Orpik Selected to United States Olympic Squad

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
Thirty years have passed since a man named “Brooks” led an underdog United States Olympic squad to an improbable gold medal. In the three decades after Herb Brooks guided Team USA on that magical run at Lake Placid in 1980 a gold medal has always eluded the Americans.

As the United States looks to once again stand tall as the brightest hockey-playing country in the world they have once again turned to a man named Brooks. When Team USA’s roster was announced Friday afternoon Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik was one of the 23 players selected to represent the red, white and blue in the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver from Feb. 12-28.
Brooks Orpik was selected to represent the United States at the Olympic Games for the first time. Credit - Getty Images

“It would be a special accomplishment,” said Orpik earlier Friday about being selected. “We have had such a compact schedule here I really haven’t had much time to think about it.

“It’s definitely something I think growing up you watched on TV and kind of dreamed about.”

The symbolism surrounding Orpik’s appointment to the United States team is something straight from Hollywood. Born seven months after the ‘Miracle on Ice,’ his parents named him Brooks after the legendary Olympic coach, so it is fitting that on the 30th anniversary of Herb Brooks leading the Americans to stunning upsets of the Soviet Union and Finland for the gold medal, Oprik is now an Olympian himself.

Orpik said the first call he places will go to his father.

“He will probably be just as pleased and excited as I will be,” Orpik said. “He is an American too so I think anyone would be proud of your kid or anyone who is a friend or family member. He will probably be the first person I call.”

A little more than six years have passed since Herb Brooks tragically passed away in a car accident. It’s a shame the no-nonsense hero who also led the Americans to a silver medal in Salt Lake City in 2002, can’t be around to witness Orpik’s selection, as he would have been proud to see a player cut from Orpik’s cloth donning a national team jersey.

With all the skilled players holding roster spots on the other top contenders, having a defensive-minded presence to counter such creativity was a necessity for the Americans. That is where Orpik fits in. He ranks fifth in the National Hockey League with 135 hits and has also posted a plus-5 rating while teaming with Sergei Gonchar to take on opponents’ top lines.

Orpik will never be confused with Bobby Orr but that is actually just what the Americans are looking for. His task will be to make life miserable on players such as Canada’s Sidney Crosby and Russia’s Evgeni Malkin – his teammates with the Penguins.

“He is a physical guy – that is his game,” said Crosby of a potential matchup against Orpik. “He is a great skater and a physical guy who can get there. A lot of guys with his size and strength are not always the quickest guys but with him that is not the case.

“He can get to those areas quickly. He is a guy who is going to make you pay the price when you go down on him. As a forward I think everyone realizes that.”

Brooks Orpik will provide the Americans with a physical presence along the blueline. Credit - Getty Images
Oprik’s stock really began to rise during the 2008 postseason run. It was then that he and Gonchar began to receive recognition for the work they did in a shutdown role. A 15-second span against the Detroit Red Wings in Game 3 of the 2008 Stanley Cup Final where Orpik laid four hits has earned the moniker “The Shift.”

While many hockey fans still associate Orpik with that 15-second sequence, he has proven the past year-and-a-half he is more than just a big hitter. He has served as an alternate captain on several occasions and is one of the mainstays on the No. 10 ranked penalty-killing unit in the game.

“That was a pretty good idea of what he brings,” Crosby said. “He has showed in that really short span what kind of player he is. I think he has shown that for a long time (too). You don’t need to hit four guys in one shift to prove you are steady and that you are a guy who is going to be tough to play against.”

The longest-tenured member of the Penguins, Orpik has registered 14 assists through his first 37 games, putting him on pace to better last season’s career high totals of 17 assists and 19 points.

This will be Orpik’s first Olympic Games and the third time he has represented the United States in international competition. Orpik first wore an American sweater during the 2000 World Junior Championships. He registered a goal and an assist in seven games. Orpik most recently played for the United States in the 2006 World Championships.

Oprik’s selection to the American team brings the total number of Olympians on the Penguins roster to five. Sergei Gonchar and Evgeni Malkin were named to the Russian team on Dec. 25 while Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury were tabbed by Hockey Canada on Wednesday.

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