by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Paul Martin was watching anxiously when Team USA was announced on NBC on Wednesday following the NHL’s Winter Classic outdoor game in Michigan.
“After hearing ‘from Elk River, Minn.,’ I definitely got emotional,” said Martin, who spotted a kid wearing his jersey skating out on the ice. That’s how the team is announced.
The 32-year-old Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman was named to an Olympic team for the third time but this will presumably be the first time he’s actually skated. He was an injury replacement in 2006 but was not needed. In 2010 he was chosen but missed the Games because he had a broken left fore arm that didn’t heal in time.
“I know how much this means to me and am thankful for the opportunity. I’m pumped! I will be healthy and ready to go,” Martin said, in a story on the Penguins web site.
Martin is sidelined again, missing the last 16 games a broken tibia. He said he doesn’t anticipate rejoining the lineup before Jan. 15 against Washington, and probably after that.
Team USA opens the Olympics against Slovakia on Feb. 13 on Sochi, Russia.
Martin seemed almost as pleased to hear his hometown identified correctly as he was about getting named to an Olympic team for the third time.
“Usually, they say ‘Minneapolis,’ ” he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Martin’s defensive partner Brooks Orpik was also named, and Team USA’s coach is their own coach, Dan Bylsma, so they will likely be skating together.
Among the Olympians named was the Minnesota Wild’s Zach Parise, who was Martin’s teammate for several years with the New Jersey Devils.
Martin, who was Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey with the Elks in 2000 and played for two NCAA champion teams with the Gophers, is currently in his 10th NHL season. His stats this year were two goals and nine assists in 23 games before his injury.