Rick Nash wasn't exactly up all night Monday worrying about whether or not he'd be named to the Canadian Olympic Men's Hockey Team when the selctions were to be announced on Tuesday, but the Rangers star power forward was also far from convinced he was a lock to be chosen to represent his country for the third consecutive Winter Olympics.
So when Team Canada General Manager Steve Yzerman announced who made the team Tuesday found himself with a flurry of emotions upon hearing the good news that he was once again among those selected.
"I'm excited," Nash said following Tuesday's practice at the MSG Training Center. "It was tough waiting to hear, but now that it's official it's nice. It's tough to put into words. I've been lucky enough to play on the international level a few times, and there's nothing like out on the Canadian jersey. It's pretty special, so it should be fun."
Nash, who helped Canada win the gold medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and also played in the 2006 games, added that he was prepared for the possibility he may not make the team, especially after missing a month of action due to a concussion and with his offensive production not quite up to his usual standards.
"I would have been disappointed if I didn't get in, but I would have moved on pretty fast, though I am lucky enough to get the chance to play," explained Nash, who recorded two goals and five points in seven Olympic games in 2010. "In an Olympic year you're always worrying about the (Team Canada) roster. Not getting off to the fastest start and being injured, I knew it could affect my chances on making the team, but just seeing trust they have put in me and my play internationally, and how they stood behind me, I now owe it to them to show them they made the right decision."
In 2010 Nash was a part of a Canadian team carrying the weight of a country on its shoulders. With the Winter Games that year being played in Vancouver, and with all Canadian eyes on its men's hockey team chock-full of NHL stars and superstars, it was very nearly a gold medal or bust time for the team.
Of course Team Canada came through in dramatic fashion, beating the United States in the Gold Medal game when Sidney Crosby scored in overtime. Now the pressure will be there again for Nash and his teammates.
"I don't think it could get any bigger than last time in our home country, being the home sport, after finishing seventh the last time in Torino and everyone expecting gold, but any time you strap on the red and white maple leaf it seems like it's gold or nothing," Nash explained. "Everyone wants gold, and that's the only thing that counts in Canada. It's a huge deal."
Nash will be joined in Sochi, Russia by Rangers trainer Jim Ramsay, who once again will work for Team Canada, and six other Blueshirts who will also represent their countries. Last week Ryan Callahan, Ryan McDonagh, and Derek Stepan were selcted to play for the United States, while on Tuesday Henrik Lundqvist and Carl Hagelin were chosen by Sweden and Mats Zuccarello was picked by Norway.
Like Nash, Lundqvist is a third-time Olympian and a gold medal winner. In 2006 a 23 year-old Lundqvist backstopped Sweden to the gold, winning five of his six starts and posting a 2.33 goals against average. Come February he will be one of the veterans for a highly-talented Swedish team, considered by many a favorite to medal in 2014.
"It will definitely help going there with Henrik," stated Hagelin, a first time Olympian. "He's been nice to me since day one, helping me since I got called up here. It's always great to have someone you know. Having Hank there will be special."
While Callahan--who won a Silver Medal in 2010--and Zuccarello will be appearing in their second Winter Olympics, Hagelin, Stepn, and McDonagh will each be skating in their first. Last week McDonagh spoke about how special it will be for him to share in the experience with his good friend Stepan; and on Tuesday Hagelin shared his excitement at being named to Sweden's roster.
"I knew in the summer being on their preliminary roster that they were thinking about me and that there was a chance (to get picked)," explained Hagelin, who is tied for second on the Rangers in goals with ten. "I was always hoping to make it, and now it's a huge honor to be a part of Team Sweden."