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Rangers Callahan hopes to lead U.S. to Olympic gold

01/21/2014, 8:30am EST
By Dan Scifo - Special to USAHockey.com

New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan was a key component of the 2010 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team that captured a silver medal in Vancouver.

The most important take from the 2010 Games that sticks with Callahan, who will represent the United States for the second time in his career during the upcoming Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, wasn’t the heartbreaking overtime defeat against Canada in the gold-medal game, but merely the opportunity to participate in the Olympic experience.

“I think the biggest thing I took out of Vancouver is how fun it was and how much of an honor it was, and how proud I was to represent the USA and our country,” Callahan said. “You don’t know how many chances you’re going to get, so going into Russia I’m just going to enjoy the overall experience again. I’m thankful I get another shot.”

While Callahan is excited to play for his country again, there’s no doubt the Rochester, N.Y. native wants to finish the job this time around.

“We’re going over there to represent the USA, and we’re going over there to try and win a gold medal,” Callahan said. “That’s our main concern.”

The 28-year-old Callahan, no stranger to the leadership role, will be charged with guiding Team USA to its first gold medal since the legendary 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team. He is part of a five-player leadership group, joining Minnesota Wild teammates Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, in addition to Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown and St. Louis Blues forward David Backes.

“I think it’s an experienced group,” Callahan said. “I think it’s our role to set the tone of the team and try to create an identity as fast as you can in such a short amount of time.

“I think that was big to our success in 2010, our team changing pretty quickly and establishing the way we wanted to play. That year, our leadership group did that, and now it’s passed on to us and we have to do the same in Russia.”

Dan Bylsma, coach of the U.S. Olympic team, believes this year’s leadership group is special.

“I think you look up and down our roster at a group of guys that are either captains on their teams or captain material in the past for their teams,” Bylsma said. “You’re looking at well-respected, gritty, captain players for their teams, and how they play, and how they battle, and it’s a great strength for our team.

“We’re talking about real leaders and real captains for their teams.”

A frustrating, injury-riddled year is starting to turn around at just the right time for Callahan. He missed the season opener after offseason shoulder surgery and sat out seven more games with a broken thumb suffered while blocking a shot Oct. 16 at Washington. Callahan later suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee Dec. 10 against Nashville and missed three weeks, returning Jan. 3 at Pittsburgh.

“It’s hard to sit out and watch your team,” Callahan said. “It’s been a tough year, no question, with injuries. This happens sometimes, so you have to stay positive and keep working.”

Joining Callahan on the U.S. Olympic Team are fellow New York Rangers Ryan McDonagh a standout defenseman, and forward Derek Stepan. Both McDonagh and Stepan will be first-time Olympians.

“You’re going over there and you have one practice and you’re playing in a game,” Callahan said. “[Having experience with teammates] can definitely help and make you feel more comfortable. That’s a positive, and I think it’s something they definitely concentrated on.”

Now, the focus for the U.S. Olympic squad is a gold medal, and a fully healthy Callahan is ready to flourish in Sochi.

“It’s going to be a good team,” Callahan said. “You go right through the lineup, there’s a lot of skilled players, a lot of fast players, and I think that will be good on the big ice.

“With that many talented players on the team, I think we’re going to have a good shot.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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