Blues players tired, but still thrilled by their Olympic experience

News-DemocratFebruary 24, 2014 

— After winning a gold medal with Team Canada at the Winter Olympics in Russia, don't expect St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo to be waving it around anyone from Team USA.

"If he rubs it in, he'll be missing more than just half a front tooth," joked Blues captain David Backes, whose U.S. squad lost 5-0 to Finland in the bronze medal game after losing 1-0 to Canada in the semifinals. "That's for sure."

The Blues are finally back together again after the players from Canada, Team USA and Sweden rejoined their NHL teammates Monday night for the flight to Vancouver.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock also won a gold medal as a Canadian assistant coach.

"I saw Hitch on the ice after the game and I said 'That's one championship, one more to go this year," Pietrangelo said with an obvious reference to the Stanley Cup. "We've obviously been through a lot together and back to reality, our goal is to win here in St. Louis."

Pietrangelo and defense partner Jay Bouwmeester won gold medals, Sweden's Alexander Steen and Patrik Berglund won silver and Team USA's Backes, T.J. Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk brought back some great experiences.

There will be plenty of good-natured jabs between the Blues, but Monday night they were too tired to think about it.

"I'll give it a little bit of a break before I start it up again," Pietrangelo said with a sly smile. "I think everybody's going to be sleeping on the plane. It's still kind of a surreal feeling for me and Bo."

Pietrangelo was playing in his first Olympics and won a gold medal as one-half of one of Canada's top defense pairings along with Bouwmeester.

"It was pretty special and to have my family there too makes it even that much better," Pietrangelo said. "I got to spend about three hours with my parents right after the game, so that was a pretty special moment for me."

Oshie became one of the most popular men in America during the preliminary around when he made four of six shootout attempts to lift Team USA past Russia.

Besides the spotlight that included national television appearances and people chanting his name in bars across the country, Oshie also received a congratulatory Twitter message from President Barack Obama.

That's when he started to realize how big success in the Olympics could be.

"I still don't really understand," said Oshie, who deflected attention after his heroics by pointing to U.S. goaltender Jonathan Quick. "To me it was just a shootout that went into extra innings. Maybe I'll look back in a couple months or years or whenever it is and realize how big it was.

"Right now it's still just seems like a game that I wish was a little later in the tournament."

But what about that presidential tweet on Twitter?

"I found out from the media afterwards and was pretty shocked," Oshie said. "It's impressive and pretty special he'd take the time out of his day to send out those good words to me and my teammates."

How will their Olympic experiences affect the Blues moving forward?

"We've got some guys coming off some pretty big highs," Oshie said, "a couple getting a gold medal and a silver medal and we've got some guys like maybe myself and Backes that are fired up that we didn't get anything.

"I feel like after big losses like that it inspires you to work harder. It was easy coming back to this group of guys, we're close and we're all pretty good buddies, so I'm excited to see their faces."

Oshie still has trouble believing how he captured America's attention just by doing something he loves --scoring shootout goals.

"It was pretty crazy after that shootout," he said. "It's all a little bitter now that we get back and have nothing to show for it, but it was pretty cool after that seeing some of my family on some major TV shows and things like that."

Oshie added tens of thousands of new followers on Twitter during the Olympics. On Monday night, he had nearly 253,000 followers.

"I'm more interested in seeing how many people get sick of me and unfollow me," he joked. "We'll see how that number goes."

Backes and his Olympic teammates that finally returned home Monday morning will be given Tuesday off as they try to get re-acclimated to the 12-hour time difference between Russia and Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada.

They will join their teammates for the morning skate on Wednesday before cranking it up in the NHL again in Vancouver.

"It will be interesting," Backes said. "We've had a lot of success in the first part of the year and we're going to be looking for more here in the second part. We're really gearing up for the playoffs and hopefully a long playoff push where we're playing hockey when it's 100 degrees in St. Louis."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

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