Despite having worn the Team USA colors before in various international tournaments, St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk still becomes emotional just looking at the jersey.
That feeling should multiply by several levels when Shattenkirk tugs on his red, white and blue gear for his first game at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
"Every stage gets a little bit bigger," Shattenkirk said. "Every time you see a jersey, you always get that same sense of pride when you see it hanging up in the locker room and you have your name on there.
"As a young kid, you don't really realize it until you play in your first international tournament. When you wear that jersey, that's what it's all about."
Team USA's Blues contingent of Shattenkirk, David Backes and T.J. Oshie could be facing teammate Jaroslav Halak in goal for Slovakia during a preliminary-round game at 6:30 a.m. Thursday on the NBC Sports Network.
Despite growing up in the New York area, Shattenkirk, 25, is not part of the generation that still genuflects at the altar of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" team that won gold in Lake Placid, N.Y.
"The 1980 Olympic team was special, but I wasn't alive for that," Shattenkirk said. "That was a while ago, so you get to watch all the history stuff about it a bunch of times."
Shattenkirk does share an important connection with one of the 1980 Team USA players. He and Jack O'Callahan both wore the captain's "C" at Boston University and both played on national championship clubs for the Terriers.
"Apparently every time there's a BU hockey player on the team. ... that's all I've got to say," Shattenkirk said with a smile when thinking of another potential gold medal for Team USA.
"The timing of that win, with everything that was going on politically, that's what makes it such a special moment," Shattenkirk said. "It's not only one of the greatest Olympic hockey moments for us as a country, it's just one of the greatest Olympic moments.
"You see all these great stories and that's what makes the Olympics so special."
Even before he played for Boston U., Shattenkirk was already playing for his country on the under-17 and under 1-8 U.S. National Team Development Program.
"Once you play against Sweden and Canada and all those teams, that's where you get that real sense of pride," Shattenkirk said. "To have that hammered into you when you're that young; to have the opportunity to play in the world juniors and world championships and kind of move up the ranks, it's important."
Colorado's first-round pick and the 14th overall selection in 2007, Shattenkirk has always been one of the top offensive defensemen in his age group.
Did he always hope to play in the Olympics?
"They were always a goal of mine, but to get there you have to make the NHL," he said. "You have to stick in the NHL and then you have to be a prominent player, so it's tough. It could have gone any way I think, but you just have to put yourself in the right position.
"It's become a reality, so now you have to get ready for it and get ready to play."
"It's going to be great," Shattenkirk said. "I don't think I've fully come to grips yet with how big the stage is or how many people will be watching the games. That part of it is so cool. You're part of this much bigger thing.
"It's something I'm going to be able to talk about for the rest of my life."