SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - Patrick Marleau woke up Wednesday morning and quickly received some of the best news of his hockey career: He had made the Canadian Olympic team.
"A good wakeup call. A good way to start your day," Marleau said.
Marleau was far from alone even in his own locker room. Three other Sharks got similar calls and will join Marleau in Vancouver in February when the Canadian Olympic team takes the ice. Marleau will be joined by two of his frequent linemates, Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley, as well as defenseman Dan Boyle.
Thornton headed into Wednesday night's game against Washington
leading the NHL with 54 points and 44 assists. Marleau and Heatley are in the top five in goals scored with 25 and 23 respectively, while Boyle is fourth among NHL defensemen with 31 points.
"It's incredible," said Thornton, who was also on Canada's 2006 Olympic team. "You're lucky enough to go to an All-Star game with one other player on your team. Four guys on the same Olympic team is very special because it's one of the toughest teams to make. It's very exciting for all four of us to be sharing this together."
Thornton, Marleau and Heatley could very likely be playing on the same line at the Olympics. They have played together for part of the season and San Jose and also skated together at a Canadian Olympic camp over the summer.
In a short tournament where building chemistry can sometimes be one of the biggest challenges on a team full of stars, that could prove to be an important advantage for Canada.
"It's one of the biggest things with the international tournaments," said Heatley, who also played on the 2006 team. "There are all new guys trying to get together. When you have guys who have played together in the past or in this case during the season, it's definitely an advantage."
The Canadians finished a disappointing seventh in Turin, Italy, in 2006, and their legion of die-hard fans has been pointing to the games on their home ice almost since then.
While Thornton and Heatley were part of that team, Boyle could only watch as an injury alternate.
"I was over there, it was pretty painful," he said. "It was painful to sit through and very frustrating to watch. Let's turn the page."
Boyle said it still hasn't quite sunk in that he made the actual team this time around, especially with the tournament in Canada.
"I'm still pretty calm," he said. "My parents and brother are a lot more excited than I was. That's just for right now. Opening night, the first game when I put the sweater on is when it will really kick in. It's a tremendous honor and sharing it with my buddies here makes it extra special."
The Sharks four Canadian Olympians will have some company in
Vancouver, as San Jose has already had seven players picked for Olympic teams and could get an eighth if forward Joe Pavelski makes the U.S. team when it is announced Friday.
Backup goaltender Thomas Greiss also was picked Wednesday for the German team. Starting goalie Evgeni Nabokov was already picked for the Russian team and defenseman Douglas Murray will play for Sweden
"That's fun," Thornton said. "It's always a good competition. We'll go against Dougie and Nabby. Hopefully we can score a couple goals on Nabby because last tournament we didn't score any on him."