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Guy Behind the Guy: Gleason's Olympic Opportunity

Tuesday, 08.25.2009 / 3:24 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Mike Sundheim
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Guy Behind the Guy: Gleason\'s Olympic Opportunity
Tim Gleason wasn’t born until 1983, but that doesn’t mean the year 1980 hasn’t had a significant impact on his hockey ambitions.

Mike Sundheim
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As an American, and someone who spent significant time in ice rinks during his formative years, the images of flag-draped college hockey players dancing around the ice in Lake Placid have been drilled into his mind since he first strapped on skates. So when Mike Eruzione and Jack O’Calllahan walked into a room full of America’s brightest NHL talent last week, Gleason and his young peers were just as captivated as those who were alive to witness the “Miracle on Ice.”

While the 2010 U.S. team won’t face odds quite as long as those collegians did 30 years prior – these are, after all, NHL players – the Americans won’t exactly be favorites in Vancouver. The United States will likely ice one of the younger contenders in the field in February, and most analysts see them as underdogs. Eruzione and O’Callahan obviously know that role well.

“Nobody thought they would win,” said Gleason. “They gave us their thoughts on what it took to do that, and got it in our minds that we have a great opportunity ahead of us.”

Eruzione and O’Callahan weren’t the only speakers to make an impact on the potential American Olympians. Three Navy SEALs addressed the group in what Gleason called “the most interesting thing I’ve ever been able to listen to in person.”

Along with the guest speakers, the U.S. Olympic Orientation camp featured plenty of opportunities for the players invited to bond and get to know their potential teammates, along with the coaching and medical staff members that will accompany them to British Columbia. Team bonding events, team dinners and a little time on the ice were also on the agenda in Chicago, as were information sessions addressing procedures and drug policies for the Winter Olympic Games.

For Gleason, who has already represented his country at two World Junior Championships and the 2007 IIHF World Championships, his invitation to the camp means he is that much closer to achieving a life-long dream.

“It’s a great honor obviously,” he said. “Getting to the camp is a big step in my career. To have an opportunity to play for your country in the Olympics is one of the best things possible, next to winning the Stanley Cup, if not even better than winning the Stanley Cup.

“Those are dreams that every kid has. Win the Stanley Cup. Win a gold medal for your country.”

One of the highlights of the camp showed Gleason just how important his opportunity really is. On a wider scale, there are similarities to 1980 when current events are taken into account, as tough economic times again serve as a backdrop to the Winter Olympics.

When the team hit the ice for the first time at Seven Bridges Arena in Woodridge, Ill., the players were split into three groups – each modeling a different version of the U.S. Olympic uniform. As the players were introduced one by one, they were welcomed onto the ice by a raucous, capacity crowd.

“It was pretty amazing,” said the Clawson, Mich., native. “I never would have thought that with our little camp in Chicago we would see a turnout like that. It just showed us that the Olympics are a big deal. Especially with what the country is going through, hopefully people can hop on board and enjoy the ride.”

Media Alerts: Most of you have probably noticed that I haven't been throwing out media alerts very often this summer. There are two reasons behind this: 1) It is summer and there simply aren't as many things to alert about and 2) We have been using our Twitter feed to reach fans more quickly with media alerts. Please remember, you do NOT have to join Twitter to see those updates. You can see them by simply visiting our Twitter web site and reading the latest updates.

That being said, a few quick alerts:

  • The NHL Network will air an episode of its "Classic Series" show featuring the 2002 Canes-Devils Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series tonight at 9 p.m.. Looking back, Caniac Nation may not have been born during that series, but it sure started picking up steam, as that was our very first series win in North Carolina. A pair of overtime wins and one showstopping save by Kevin Weekes set the stage and built the momentum for plenty more playoff memories in Raleigh.
  • Pete Freisen will be making the radio rounds as we get ready for this weekend's Friesen 5k, benefiting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Listen for him on 99.9 "Insiders" show in the coming days, as well as on 850 The Buzz Wednesday morning at 9:05. Along with the 5k, Pete will be giving updates on the first big week of unofficial workouts at the RecZone.
  • Eric Staal and Cam Ward are both in Calgary for Canada's Olympic camp this week. caught up with both guys at the airport upon their arrival. You can see Staal's interview here, and Cam's scrum here.

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