Oshie an overnight sensation
HIS COVER is blown. T.J. Oshie, the mild-mannered forward who morphed into Superman and single-handedly outscored Russia in a shootout for the ages, won't sneak up on anyone again soon, let alone against the Czech Republic, the Americans' opponent in today's Olympic quarterfinals.
In the days since the win over Russia, Oshie has become the hottest U.S. import here since the iPad. He got a shout-out from President Obama as part of his star turn on Twitter, talked to the "Today" show and met what he called "some pretty influential people."
Just as his teammates let up on the needling and things began to slow down, his jerseys started flying off store shelves and his agent's phone nearly blew up. Small wonder Oshie spent the time in between hoping one of his teammates did something spectacular or silly enough to siphon off some attention.
"He takes it all in stride," said David Backes, who is Oshie's teammate with the NHL's St. Louis Blues. "He came back to the room after doing the interviews and NBC put makeup on him and he's like, 'I think they're blowing this a little out of proportion.' ''
So no one who knows Oshie was surprised when he told reporters to quit throwing the word "hero" in his direction and reserve it for U.S. servicemen instead. He's a 27-year-old who was born in Washington state and became a prep star in hockey-mad Warroad, Minn., barely a half-dozen miles from the Canadian border. It's a tiny town (pop. 1,770, though the town's rink seats "only" 1,454), but also a tough place to get a big head.
The Warriors hockey team collects state championships like a dryer gathers lint. Oshie won two in his 4-year stint there, and not only is current U.S. women's team forward Gigi Marvin from there - she and Oshie were crowned Queen and King of the Frosty Festival their senior year - both of the previous U.S. Olympic gold medal-winning hockey teams featured members of the same Warroad family: Bill and Roger Christian in 1960; Dave Christian in 1980.
That's just one reason why he comes by his humility honestly. And here's another: check out how Oshie spent what might have been the biggest night of his life:
"I was very calm until I got back. I talked to some family members, and that was pretty special for me. Kind of got the heart going a little bit. I talked to my fiancée, Lauren [who is pregnant and stayed back in St. Louis], and tried to go to bed. Didn't work too well. Sat there and listened to some music."
Oshie might have been a fan favorite in St. Louis, but he seemed like an afterthought on the U.S. Olympic roster. On a team this deep and talented, he figured to get little more than a few shifts with the fourth line, which is exactly what happened against Russia until the shootout began. He took the first shot and scored, then took the last six and cashed in four - one more than the Russians.
"It's something you practice at the end of practice all the time, just kind of messing around. I had to go back and maybe think of some different moves that I can do and maybe go back to some that I already did," Oshie said. "It was a fun end."
Oshie has seven shootout goals in NHL games, more than any of his American teammates.
The U.S. and Canada have chosen to sit the goaltenders who played in the 2010 gold-medal game at the Vancouver Olympics.
The Americans plan to start Jonathan Quick - not Ryan Miller - today against the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals. He is thankful that his teammates have played well in front of him.
"Guys are playing great in our own end and competing in front of the net when there are rebounds," Quick said.
The Canadians, who play Latvia, are going with Carey Price - not Roberto Luongo - when they're among the final eight teams in the 12-team tournament.
"I'm excited," Price said. "I'm grateful for the opportunity."
Luongo helped Canada beat Miller and the U.S. at the Vancouver Games in overtime.