Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Special Teams

Article in USA Hockey Magazine on A Team For The Ages:

If special can be measured by degrees, one team photo would stand out above the rest. It features the Shattuck-St. Mary's squad that captured the 2003 USA Hockey Tier I 17 & Under National Championship in Laurel, Md.

A closer look at the names under the photo would make any hockey coach drool.

There's the baby-faced Ryan Duncan, the 2007 Hobey Baker Award winner, stretched out in the front row. Huddled around the USA Hockey championship banner to the right is Matt Smaby, the hulking defenseman who is in his third year with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Over his shoulder is Buffalo Sabres standout forward Drew Stafford. Jack Johnson, most recently of the silver-medal winning U.S. Olympic Team, crouches nearby, smiling from ear to ear.

Sandwiched in the tangled web of smiles and index fingers thrust in the air are Brian Salcido and Matt Ford, who are currently playing in the American Hockey League.

And right in the middle of it all is a bright-eyed Sidney Crosby, who won a USA Hockey National Championship long before he captured a World Junior Championship title, captained the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup or raised his hero status to new heights by scoring the golden goal for Canada in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

Duncan, Stafford, Johnson AND Crosby? Yeah, that's a pretty decent little squad there alright. All playing together at a prep school in Farribault, Minnesota. JB and I actually were lucky enough to see this team in action in January of aught-three as they dismantled our high school alma mater. We knew that we were watching something special with Crosby. Little did we know about the other talent on the team.

Speaking of hockey, the NHL playoffs finally start tonight. Since the Wild players are working more on their back-swing than back-hand these days, I'm forced to adopt other teams to pull for. In the West, I'd love to see the Hawks reach the Finals. They've got some great young players and play an exciting style of puck. In the East, it's gotta be the Caps simply because Ovechkin is so damn fun to watch. Top seeds usually don't fare well as well in the NHL playoffs as they do in other sports, but I think with the experience they gained last year, the Caps should be able to get over the hump and get past the Pens this time around. No matter how they turn out, the playoffs are always must see television. It would just be nice if they could get 'em wrapped up before the end of May.

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