Hawks' Sharp dreams of joining Team Canada
Patrick Sharp's resume speaks for itself.
Sharp has helped lead the Blackhawks to two Stanley Cups, scored big goals in the biggest of games, plays hurt, is versatile and has become as reliable a defensive forward as there is in the game.
The only thing Sharp hasn't done is represent his native Canada in the Olympics, but that might be about to change.
Sharp is one of the 22 forwards invited to Team Canada's three-day Olympic orientation camp, which starts Sunday in Calgary, and he has as good a chance to make the squad as anyone.
Most people in the U.S. don't understand how big the Olympics are in Canada, and what it means to play for the national team.
"Next to winning the Stanley Cup, I don't think there's anything else you'd rather do," Sharp said in a telephone interview with the Daily Herald from his summer home in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
"I can still remember in 2002 when I was in college and the games were in Salt Lake City, screaming with all my Canadian roommates, watching the gold-medal game.
"It's a tournament that only comes around so often but kind of captures the Winter Olympics. As a Canadian, the country goes crazy. They love their hockey."
Even in the summer.
"I'm back home right now and you turn on the TV and they've got hourlong shows talking about potential lineups for Team Canada and the roster. They're going crazy already for it," Sharp said. "It would definitely be something that means a lot to me.
"I've played for Team Canada twice now in the World Championships, and that was pretty cool. I didn't get a chance to play in the World Junior tournament or past Olympic championships, but I think I've developed every season as a player in the National Hockey League, and this would be just another step in my career."
Because of insurance issues there won't be any on-ice workouts next week in Calgary. This is a team that won't be formally picked until December, so unless your name is Crosby, Toews or Stamkos, a lot is going to depend on the first few months of the 2013-14 regular season.
Those players who perform the best through December will be going to Sochi, Russia, in February.
"I hope a lot of it has to do with how players start," Sharp said. "Health and injuries will definitely play a part of it as well. I think at the end of the day I need to show I'm a player that can be responsible in all areas, and obviously help offensively."
Sharp doesn't have anything to prove to anyone, but that's never the way he will look at this opportunity.
"I still have a lot to prove to myself," he said. "The Olympics are a personal goal of mine. I'm certainly happy with the way things have gone in my career with two Stanley Cups and being a part of, in my opinion, the best organization in hockey.
"Being a captain of that team is pretty special, but I think as a hockey player and a pro athlete, you're always trying to prove something. It doesn't matter what you've done in the past."
This will be Sharp's second Olympic camp. He received a coveted invitation in 2009 but wasn't picked for the team.
It will be the first Canadian Olympic camp for Hawks goalie Corey Crawford, while Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook all played on the 2010 Canada team that won the gold medal in Vancouver.
No team has more players invited to Calgary than the Hawks.
"It's a little different than the first time I went because we're not actually playing hockey this time," Sharp said. "It's just going to be team-building stuff, from a golf tournament, dinners and stuff like that.
"So physically there's not much I can do to impress them. I'll have to wait for the regular season."
Detroit's Mike Babcock is back as Team Canada's head coach with Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues as one of his assistants. Both know Sharp quite well, another thing in the winger's favor.
"I know the coaches and they know me," Sharp said. "I also know a majority of the players that will be there, so I'll just try to go there and hang out for a bit."
Toews did his best this week at a charity golf tournament in Ontario to let people know how big a deal the Olympics are in Canada.
"Once you get to the Olympics you know that there's a vast majority of the Canadian population that are tuned in to watch every single one of their games," Toews told reporters.
"In Canada, it's gold medal or bust. You'll disappoint with anything less."
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