Jan 1, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard is introduced as a member of the U.S. Olympic hockey team after the 2014 Winter Classic hockey game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Florida Panthers Morning Nips: USA Selections

When you think of the Winter Classic you think of snow, freezing cold temperatures, and bundling up to get through the heart of winter. What you do not think about are beaches, sunburns, hammocks and surfboards but ultimately those are the things that defined my Winter Classic experience.

My older sister lives in Costa Rica so naturally I have to take advantage of that situation and visit whenever possible even if a possible trip overlaps the greatest hockey holiday of the year, the Winter Classic. I watched the game on my cellphone this year laying in a hammock on my sister’s porch. The viewing was occasionally interrupted by the dogs that run wild here getting into trouble or a local Tico stopping by the house to pick up a repaired surfboard.

I’ll be honest, I took a little break from the game around the second period to go catch some waves but I made it back in time to catch overtime and the shootout. I was bummed when at the conclusion of the game, my NHL Gamecenter feed cut out, robbing me of an opportunity to watch the selection of the US Mens Olympic roster.

By now I am sure you are familiar with the team, the surprises and the snubs so I will try not to rehash any of that. What I really want to do for a moment is complain so bear with me. I was a bit peeved as I read the twitter reactions following the roster announcement. Lots of people were voicing their displeasure that player’s from their favorite NHL teams did not make the cut. While there is nothing wrong with that, many took their complaints a step further saying they will have to root for Canada now or some other Country that features one of the players from their favorite NHL team.

Seriously????

This is Team USA we are talking about. Your NHL affiliations mean absolutely nothing when it comes to the Olympics. So when I read “With Bishop left off the team I will have to root for Stamkos and the Canadiens” or “Kyle Okposo is left off the team. WOW, what a joke!!!” it gets under my skin a tiny bit, enough to make me come talk about it here at the very least. Jumping to Canada because Bishop did not make the cut is like me saying I am going to root for Germany because Marcel Goc will be playing for the Germans and the USA selection committee somehow inexplicably looked over the blinding talent of the hockey dynamo that is Nick Bjugstad.

And really? Kyle Okposo is such an amazing player that he should be a lock to make team USA and his not making the team is an outrage? Okposo was a fringe player at best and there is a lot of talent on this roster, you would be hard pressed to find anyone outside of Long Island that is currently trashing their house because team USA lost their chance at gold medal because we won’t have Kyle Okposo to healthy scratch every night. And yes, I know he has put up stats this season but there is more that goes into selecting the team than just a player’s stats through 41 games.

But at the same time, I totally get it. NHL fans are passionate about their teams and when you spend all your time watching the same 20 players your view of the rest of the league gets distorted. I would be lying if I said a tiny part of me was not disappointed when I saw the roster had no Nick Bjugstad or Tim Thomas even though I knew they both had zero shot of making the team. Neither caught even the slightest whiff of Dave Poile’s peach scented magic marker on his beloved whiteboard so I can only image how stilted I would feel if they were seriously in the running for the team but just missed the cut. I could even see myself being mad enough to start sending tweets in ALL CAPS.

Also on a side note, Kyle Okposo is second highest scoring American in the league right now (15-25-40) and Ben Bishop is having by far the best season by an American goalie so there are definitely legitimate gripes to be had. If there is one player that I would like to see on the team that did not make the cut I would go with Keith Yandle, but that’s just me. Here are a couple nips for ya:

  • The folks at USA hockey were kind enough to give tons of access to a few journalists which allowed for a pretty awesome behind the scenes look at the process of selecting the team. Here are Kevin Allen and Scott Bursides‘ pieces on the selection process. For us Panther fans out there, it is interesting to see that Thomas’ name does not come up once in the goaltending discussions.
  • Not much Panther news to report but here is Harvey Fialkov’s midseason report on the team. Definitely a good read.

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Tags: Florida Panthers Team USA

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