Monday, July 22, 2013

Blues well represented at Olympic preliminary camps

By Andrew Allsman| Posted: July 22, 2013| Contact  |

It may seem miles away, but the hockey world is already gearing up for the 2014 Olympic games, held in Sochi this coming February. The National Hockey League will halt its business for 17 days, almost the entire month of February, for the games. But it won't be a break for many players, a few of them will likely be from St. Louis.

On Monday, the process of selecting players to represent each participating country began with the releasing of the preliminary camp rosters. Teams Canada, USA, Sweden, Finland, and Russia highlighted the release day. On those rosters, were eight Blues players, chosen for a chance to compete for their respective countries.

David Backes (USA), T.J. Oshie (USA), Alex Steen (SWE), Patrik Berglund (SWE), and Vladimir Tarasenko (RUS) are the Blues' forwards that received invites to the preliminary camps. Of the Blues' defensemen, Jay Bouwmeester (CAN), Alex Pietrangelo (CAN), and Kevin Shattenkirk (USA) will be headed to the camps.

The preliminary camps open on various dates, all in August. Team USA will hold their two-day camp Aug. 26-27. Team Sweden's camp is scheduled for Aug. 12-14, while Team Canada holds a three-day camp Aug. 25-28. Team Russia will gather from Aug. 23-24.

Of the Blues' players selected thus far, only one has previous Olympic experience.

David Backes competed with Team USA in the 2010 Winter Olympics. USA advanced to the Gold Medal Game, but lost 3-2 in overtime to Canada.

The Blues had three representatives for the 2010 Olympics, which were held in Vancouver. Besides Backes, Erik Johnson (USA) and Roman Polak (CZE). Polak is once again a candidate for selection, but the Czech Republic's roster has yet to be released. Vladimir Sobotka is also a candidate for a roster spot on the Czech team. Goaltender Jaroslav Halak could receive an invite from team Slovakia and be on his way to Sochi as well.

Aside from the players that could be headed to Sochi, the Blues are being represented at higher levels too. 

Team Canada announced its coaching staff on Monday, and on it was Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. Hitchcock, along with newly-appointed Stars' coach Lindy Ruff and Bruins' coach Claude Julien, will be assisting Detroit's Mike Babcock.

Hitchcock, Ruff, and Babcock were a part of the coaching staff in 2010 when Team Canada won Gold. Julien is the only new face on the coaching staff, replacing Jacques Lemaire who was with the staff in 2010.

For Hitchcock, it will be his fourth Olympic appearance behind the bench. Hitchcock was a part of Team Canada for the 2002, 2006, and 2010 Olympic games. In both 2002, and 2010, Canada emerged with the Gold Medal. 

Hitchcock just finished his second season with the Blues. With the club, Hitchcock is 72-32-13, the best win percentage in franchise history. The Blues have advanced to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in both years under Hitchcock, as well as to the Western Conference Semifinals in 2012. Hitchcock won the Jack Adams Award in his first season behind the Blues' bench because of his success with the team. 

Joining Hitchcock in Sochi will be Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, who will be Canada's Associate Director of Player Personnel. Armstrong held the same title during the 2010 Olympics. 

The Winter Olympics begin Feb. 7 in Sochi. As it stands right now, there will be many familiar faces there from St. Louis.