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Ryan Malone on US Olympic spot

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Lightning LW RYAN MALONE on his selection Friday morning by USA Hockey to the American men’s ice hockey roster for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics:

Q: Who made the call?

A: I kind of heard through my agent and my dad. They got stuff in the mail.

Q: What was that conversation like with your dad?

A: Well, I haven’t really talked that much about it.

Q: Not too many athletes from Pittsburgh make the Winter Olympics. It’s not like there are many ski slopes…

A: Yeah, Seven Springs. That’s kind of it.

Q: So what is that like?

A: Obviously you have a lot of pride. That’s the biggest thing. (Team USA general manager Brian) Burke and (head coach Ron) Wilson at the orientation camp said to realize you are representing your country, not just a hockey team. It’s where you come from – and all the Pittsburgh fans and Lightning fans in the United States are rooting for the same time. You have a lot of pride. You’re excited. You go there and we’re planning on grabbing something for around our neck, that’s for sure.

Q: Russia and Canada are getting a lot of the spotlight, but the U.S. is starting to get some notice…

A: It’s not a best-of-seven or anything. It’s just one game, and you’ve got to make sure the guys are going to play together as team. If we come together and play together I think we’ve got a shot.

Q: What is your Olympic hockey memory?

A: Obviously 1980, knowing Herb Brooks and stuff, seeing the (“Miracle”) movie, but that’s pretty much all I had. Thinking back on players, you think about John LeClair, Jeremy Roenick, Mike Modano, Bill Guerin – those are the guys I watched growing up.

Q: The 1980 “Miracle on Ice” was something you only watched from a historical perspective, right?

A: Yeah. I never thought I’d be on an Olympic team. I never even thought about it.

Q: That’s kind of the Ryan Malone career arc, right; you never imagined all of this?

A: Getting drafted! In Pittsburgh, if a kid went away to play Junior B it was a pretty good deal; now it’s me, (Columbus’ RJ) Umberger, and (former Penguin) Bill Thomas, too. There are so many kids that have made it. It’s been great. Before I think most kids were going to club hockey at Penn State and West Virginia. So it was nice to get Division I scholarships, and move on from there.

Q: What would Herb think of this Olympic team?

A: Hopefully that it’s good. From what you hear Herbie and (assistant coach Craig) Patrick put together a team for a specific reason with role guys, and it sounds like Burkie is doing the same thing.

Q: How do you feel your NHL experience – becoming a leader on a young Penguins team that reached the 2008 Cup Final – will help this Olympic team?

A: I don’t know. (laughs) I know what it takes to win, how you have to play the game. There’s a tremendous amount of talent there and you’ve got to let those guys use that talent. As a team coming together, you just have to make sure we’re joking fun, enjoying the experience and having fun. We’re there, obviously, to win.

Q: Joking around has always been a problem for you, huh?

A: Ah, yeah. (Especially) if I have a few ex teammates on the team; (and) I know pretty much all the guys from the orientation camp. The hockey world is small and everybody pretty much knows somebody.

Q: What will playing with some ex teammates again be like?
A: A once in a lifetime experience. The level of hockey will be something you’re proud to be a part of. Everyone’s game will be raised for playing. If you’re playing against Canada or Sweden with a medal on the line you won’t really care if you had dinner with them the night before or not.

(Note: On a lark a Tampa Bay teammate played the American National Anthem over the speakers.)
Q: How much motivation was it knowing the first half of this season a try-out for the Olympics?
A: A lot. For being 30 already and this is probably the last time I’ll, uh… (laughs at song) this is probably my last shot to go there. I wanted to have a good start.

Q: Who in Pittsburgh will be dumbfounded that Ryan Malone is an Olympian?

A: Probably all of them. I have no idea. It’s crazy. It sounds weird. I don’t know. It hasn’t really hit me yet.

Q: Will your children believe this even after seeing pictures?
A: Hopefully. You think of everybody around Pittsburgh; even leaving home there I wasn’t the best local kid, so even making the Penguins was (something) I’m sure everybody had something to say (about.) Now, I’m not in Pittsburgh anymore. I heard, you know, I was playing with Sidney (Crosby) and (Evgeni) Malkin. I couldn’t do anything on my own, I guess. It’s nice to get something accomplished without Sid or Geno.

Q: The talk can be about Ryan Malone as a hockey player on his own – not just Ryan Malone with Sid or Geno, or Ryan Malone as a Pittsburgh kid?

A: Yeah, I guess. It’s nice, obviously.

Q: Who are you planning to take to Vancouver?
A: Uh, I don’t know when they can come over, all the details. Close family will be coming.

Q: Did you watch the 2002 gold medal game?

A: Oh, yeah. Nothing too specific about it, but…

Q: Team USA winning on Canadian soil would be sweet revenge, no?

A: Yeah, for sure. But it’s eight year later. Canada will obviously be a favorite. If you can go and knock off the top dog it would be a great feeling.

–BY ROB ROSSI (1/1/10 – from TAMPA)

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Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

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