Five Minnesota Wild players will be representing two teams at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver this February. Finland and the Czech Republic announced their rosters Wednesday, and each team will boast at least two members of the Wild.
Wild TV: Todd Richards
Todd talks about his player's making Olympic rosters and where he won't be watching the Olympic games Wild TV: Mikko Koivu
Mikko talks about being named to Finland's Olympic team Wild TV: Martin Havlat
Marty talks about getting named to Czech Republic's Olympic team Wild TV: Antti Miettinen
Antti talks about being named to Finland's Olympic team Wild TV: Niklas Backstrom
Nik talks about being named to Finland's Olympic team
, Mikko Koivu
and Antti Miettinen will don the Suomi jerseys for Finland, while Martin Havlat and Marek Zidlicky will pull on the red, white and blue Czech sweaters.
All three Finns have been named to the Olympic team before, but only Koivu has seen any ice time. As an NHL rookie in 2006, Koivu saw action on a checking line in eight games and did not pick up a point for the silver medal winning Finns.
"It's always a big honor to be representing your country," said Koivu following Thursday's morning skate. "It's a big thing for all the people in Finland and you get a chance to play for your country and the people back home. It's very special for us."
Koivu will be expected to play a much larger role this time around, although it will be interesting to see if he takes the number one center position, or if that goes to his older brother, Saku. The two have been teammates before, and Koivu acknowledged that it might be Saku's last Olympics, so it should be special for both.
Miettinen was named to his country’s roster in 2006, but was injured a week before the tournament started. Having played for most of two seasons alongside Koivu, Miettinen said he's open to playing with anybody.
"We've got a great team, so it doesn't really matter who you play with. It's important to play according to your role and play for your team. It's a short tournament."
Miettinen learned the news last week, brightening an already special week with the birth of his first son, Noel.
"I was already feeling pretty happy, so it was a nice addition," he said. "It was one of my goals for the year and they came through with the selection, so I'm happy about it."
Backstrom was one of three goaltenders on the roster, but never saw any action in Torino, Italy. He will likely be serving as Miikka Kiprusoff's backup with Antero Nittymaki taking the role as the third stringer.
"You do whatever it takes to help the team," said Backstrom. "It's not like the players are playing against each other or battling against each other. We're battling against the other countries. We try to be good as a team and you need all 22 or 23 players to do that."
Havlat will make his second Olympic appearance, but it’s his first since the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City where he picked up three goals and an assist in four games. He was unable to represent his country in 2006 due to undergoing shoulder surgery that year.
Zidlicky has also enjoyed success in the Games. He captured a bronze medal at the 2006 tournament and led all defensemen in scoring with four goals and an assist in seven games.
Some NHL coaches get nervous about their star players logging extra games and risking injuries at the Olympics, but Wild head coach Todd Richards said every team is in the same boat. Havlat even said the Olympics helped give him a boost for the remainder of the 2002 season.
"It was such a great experience. It was like a power boost and I felt much better after the Olympics, because I was on the ice. Sometimes it's harder when the rest of the guys have a lot of days off. I felt great after the Olympics."
Km Johnsson would likely have been the sixth member of the Wild at this year's Olympics, but he cited personal reasons when he requested that Sweden not select him for this year's games.
The five Olympians matches the total that the Wild sent to Torino four years ago. Koivu (Finland), Brian Rolston (United States), Filip Kuba (Czech Republic), Marian Gaborik (Slovakia) and Daniel Tjarnqvist (Sweden) participated in the 2006 games. Tjarnqvist earned a gold, while Koivu brought back a silver and Kuba earned a bronze medal.
The Wild didn't have any representatives at the 2002 Olympics.