ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The Winter Classic had added meaning for Jimmy Howard Wednesday afternoon when USA Hockey announced that the Red Wings’ goalie has been invited to join the American roster at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia next month.
The men’s team, comprised of three goalies and 22 forwards/defensemen was unveiled after the Red Wings’ 3-2 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs before more than 104,000 hearty hockey fans at a snowy Michigan Stadium.
Howard becomes the fifth all-time Red Wings’ player to ever represent the United States in the Olympics. The others were forward Brett Hull (2002), and defensemen Chris Chelios (2002, 2006), Mathieu Schneider (2006) and Brian Rafalski (2010).
Before the season, Howard was considered a strong candidate for the U.S. team, but he’s had a few setbacks missing nine games first with a hand injury and then a sprained knee suffered in practice in Tampa Bay on Dec. 11. Howard returned from his latest injury Monday in Nashville, where he allowed five goals in a 6-4 loss to the Predators. He is 6-9-7 with a 2.76 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage.
Howard, 29, played his junior hockey up the road from Michigan Stadium with the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor. Along with current Red Wings’ teammate Patrick Eaves, Howard helped the U.S. team win a gold medal at the U18 World Junior Championships in 2002. He also represented the U.S. at the 2012 World Championships in Finland.
It’s expected that the Red Wings will have plenty of personnel in Sochi with coach Mike Babcock and general manager Ken Holland working with former captain Steve Yzerman on Team Canada, while the trio of Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall and Daniel Alfredsson will try to bring gold for the first time since 2006. Russian center Pavel Datsyuk and Slovokian forward Tomas Tatar will also represent their countries.
Countries have until Jan. 7 to announce their Olympic rosters.
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