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2014-08-07 at 21:55

Olympic dream

By Leith Dunick,
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Growing up, Patrick Sharp was all about winning Stanley Cups.

But as he got older he also kept a close eye on the Olympic Games, watching Canada crash and burn in Nagano in 1998 before capturing gold in Salt Lake City four years later.

By 2006 the Thunder Bay native was entrenched in the National Hockey League, and by 2010, the year he won his first Stanley Cup, his name was even in the conversation as a longshot to make the team.

At 33, he wasn’t letting the chance slip past again, calling the 2014 Games a major motivation as 2013-14 opened.

Sharp did it the old-fashioned way, playing his way onto Team Canada, despite a slow start that saw him score just once in his first 10 games. But then he erupted, piling up 15 points in his next nine outings and straddled the NHL’s top 10 the rest of the campaign.

“There’s no question it was a personal goal of mine,” Sharp said Thursday after wrapping up play at his namesake golf tournament that helped raise an incredible $125,000 for the George Jeffrey Children’s Centre.

“I saw a lot of my teammates and a lot of my friends playing in 2010 and I certainly felt left out that I wanted to be there. For four years I worked as hard as I could to play my way onto that team and to be named to Hockey Canada was a huge honour. I know they could take any number of players in the league, but it feels good to be on that team and win a gold medal.”

Ironically, after all that hard work, he said he rarely even looks at the medal, which was front and centre Thursday at Fort William Country Club.

“Yesterday was the first time, to be honest with you, pulling it out at the George Jeffrey Centre, showing the kids and the people there. I hadn’t seen it since (Sochi), so it certainly brings back a lot of great memories,” he said, adding it was great to have fellow gold medalist Haley Irwin in Russia, equalling his accomplishment for the Canadian women’s hockey squad.

“It was great to share the experience with someone from Thunder Bay.”

While the Olympics went exactly as planned, it wasn’t the case for Sharp’s Chicago Blackhawks, who entered the season as the defending Stanley Cup champions, a team expected to battle for a third title in five seasons.

But the Hawks, who were the third seed in the Western Conference heading into the playoffs, ran into the upstart Los Angeles Kings in the semifinal, a series they trailed 3-1, only to rally to send it to a seventh game.

Twice in that deciding contest Sharp scored to give the Hawks the lead, but the Kings Marian Gaborik tied it late in the third and Alec Martinez won it in overtime to send Chicago packing.

He’s trying not to dwell on the loss as the summer slips by.

“All in all, I think we can be proud of what we accomplished. In Chicago, we know our expectations are pretty high and we know we want to get back into the Stanley Cup final and bring another Cup home.” 

But just how long does Sharp expect to be in the Windy City?

With superstar forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane signing identical eight-year, $84-million contracts, rumours have run rampant the Hawks might have to dump a salary or two next season. Sharp’s name has been frequently mentioned in the media as possible trade bait.

He’s heard the talk, but is trying to ignore it as best he can, focusing on the task at hand.

“I think it’s a compliment that whenever there’s trade rumours that it means somebody is interested in picking me up. But I don’t think like that as a player. If you listen to outside sources, it’s going to drive you crazy. So I’m focused on going back to Chicago,” Sharp said.

“I’ve got three years left to play as well as I can and hopefully win another Stanley Cup.”

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