Phoenix Coyotes’ Mike Smith ‘honored’ to be named to Canadian Olympic Team
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Mike Smith’s phone rang early this morning.
On the line was Doug Armstrong, who is the St. Louis Blues GM but, more importantly, part of Team Canada’s Management Group.
He called with good news, informing the Phoenix Coyotes’ goalie he had been selected to represent his country in the 2014 Olympics.
“I can’t even describe the feeling,” Smith said. “I was a little emotional this morning. There was a lot of buildup, obviously, to this point. It’s a relief just to know. I’m truly honored.”
Smith will be donning his country’s colors for the second time. He played in the World Championships last summer, making four starts for Canada. This, however, will be his first Olympic experience.
“It’s just something you dream about as a kid,” Smith said. “I never thought I’d be in this position. I look back four years ago and I’m in the minors not knowing if I’d ever play in the NHL again. And here I am today getting announced to the Canadian Olympic Team. I’m speechless. It’s a true honor and I’m very excited about it.”
Smith becomes the third Olympian in his family. His wife, Brigitte, was a two-time Olympic alpine skier (2006 and 2010), while her mother, Diane Pratte, skied in the 1972 Winter Games.
Admittedly, the decision on whether or not he would be included on the 25-man roster had been weighing on Smith’s mind. And with the announcement Tuesday — good or bad — head coach Dave Tippett felt compelled to give Smith the night off. He won’t start vs. Calgary.
“Hopefully (being named to Team Canada) will be that extra nudge that he needs to get his game in top form,” Tippett said.
Smith has allowed six goals, including four against Philadelphia Saturday, in his past two starts. He worked extra with goaltending coach Sean Burke following the team’s morning skate at the Ice Den.
While he leads the NHL in saves and shots faced, Smith ranks 23rd in save percentage (.911) and 36th in goals against average (2.98).
“It’s definitely an exciting time,” he said. “But in the same sense, it’s nice just to have answers. It’s something you think about, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it. When these opportunities only come by once in a while, it’s one that you want to grab on to and play well and earn your spot.”
Two other Coyotes players were selected Tuesday to represent their countries: forward Lauri Korpikoski (Finland) and defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Sweden). That brings the total number of Coyotes players headed to Sochi, Russia to five, the second-most in team history.
Forward Martin Hanzal and defenseman Zbynek Michalek were named to the Czech Republic team Monday.
“Congratulations to the guys that got picked,” Tippett said. “Now it’s time to get back to playing for the Coyotes.”