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Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Blackhawks trio make the cut

By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com

The reactions when the calls came said it all.

One was quiet, one cursed, and one's mom answered the phone and started jumping up and down.

So it went for Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, and Jonathan Toews as they were selected to participate for Team Canada in the upcoming Olympics in Vancouver.

After their initial excitement subsided all three participated in a conference call to share the moment.

"I'm just thrilled to be on the list with so many great players," Seabrook said. "It's a dream come true."

"My whole family was pretty excited this morning in getting the news," Keith continued. "When your name is listed there you realize all the great players that are Canadian hockey players. To be one of the guys lucky enough or fortunate enough to make the team, I definitely feel honored to be a part of it and do everything we can to make it a success."

"I don't think any of us were sure until we got the phone call," Toews said. "I was definitely pretty nervous this morning and I think it's a huge accomplishment for the three of us. It was definitely a pretty special moment to share with my parents this morning."

Toews did more than share it with his parents. His mom was the one that answered the call from Team Canada brass.

"My mom had the phone in the kitchen and she came running into my bedroom jumping up and down and so I kind of knew what was going on," Toews said. "So it was kind of funny."

Keith and Seabrook had decidedly different reactions when Kevin Lowe, who is on the selection committee, phoned them.

"I think I may have cursed," Keith said.

But it was in a good way, of course. For Seabrook, cursing would have at least been something to say.

"I was really nervous this morning when the phone rang," Seabrook said. "It was a number I didn't know and I sort of picked it up and really didn't know what to say. I actually feel sort of bad. Kevin Lowe said hi and introduced himself and I didn't know what to say. I just said 'Hey, Kevin Lowe.' And he started laughing, so it was sort of funny there."

A player that was considered on the bubble, Seabrook will play for his country in the area he grew up in. He's already heard from team Seabrook back in Vancouver.

"I think I've had about 75 text messages already congratulating me," Seabrook said. "I don't think I can get tickets for everybody."

Steve Yzerman, the Executive Director of Team Canada, made a point of saying the familiarity of Keith and Seabrook had a big part in finalizing the roster.

"Our decision hinged on that a little bit," Yzerman said.

Less publicized than the Kane/Toews combination but still as linked, Keith and Seabrook have played the better part of three seasons together and know each other so well, it can only help come February.

"Playing with Duncan the last couple years has definitely made us familiar with each other and we're playing against teams' top lines night in and night out," Seabrook said. "And we're going to see all those players in Vancouver. That definitely helps us."

"He's strong and smart and always in good position," Keith said of Seabrook. "I think that really helps my game and I always know he can give me an out & I think any defensemen would say that they like playing with someone that gives you support and always gives you an out."

Toews, who was also on the bubble to make the team, knows what an honor it is for any person to be selected for an Olympic team. As far as Canadian hockey goes, it's a whole other level of special.

"We all started out playing hockey somewhere in our hometown," Toews said. "[And it was] one thing at a time. You dream of making the NHL and once you do that you want to win a Stanley Cup and eventually as a player the ultimate accomplishment is to represent your country, especially Canada, in the Olympics. To be playing with the best players in the world, in your own country, is something that not too many guys get to do. That's what slowly sinks in when you think about it."

Toews will have stiff competition for playing time as Canada has a strong roster of centermen. He didn't rule out moving to wing if called upon.

"It's definitely something you have to consider. You have to check your ego at the door in Vancouver," Toews said. "I definitely look at myself as one of those guys that has to be ready to play in any different situation and hopefully I don't disappoint in whatever my role turns out to be. I'm looking forward to that challenge."

As for Keith, this just continues a magical year that includes signing the longest contract in Chicago team sports history as well as talk of him winning a Norris Trophy.

"I don't think you get satisfied with anything that's happened," Keith said. "It's important not to get too far ahead. That's what I've always tried to keep in mind. It's important as a player to keep that level head and keep working and never quit and never stop."

Now you know why he's called an Olympian.

The final piece to the Olympic puzzle involving the Hawks comes Friday when the U.S. squad is announced. Patrick Kane will most assuredly make the roster and Dustin Byfuglien is a possibility as well. So what about Feb. 21, when Canada and the United States face off in Vancouver?

It'll pit Toews versus Kane.

"I'm looking forward to it," Toews said. "We've played against each other in competitions before but this will be different. I hope to get the better of him."

Seabroo beat out the Washington Capitals' Mike Green and several defensemen from the Calgary Flames.

Dion Phaneuf, Jay Bouwmeester, and Robyn Regehr all were in the running to make the team, but none made it.

The rest of Team Canada's defense includes Dan Boyle, Drew Doughty, captain Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, and Shea Weber.

Toews will join four other centers on the team: Sidney Crosby, Joe Thornton, Mike Richards, and Ryan Getzlaf.

Other forwards include Patrice Bergeron, Patrick Marleau, Rick Nash, Jarome Iginla, Corey Perry, Eric Staal, Brenden Morrow, and Dany Heatley.

With 13 forwards, including the five centers, Toews isn't assured of dressing or playing for every game.

The goalies on the Candian roster are Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, and Marc-Andre Fleury.

This will be the first Olympics for all three Blackhawks. They will join Marian Hossa and Tomas Kopecky, who will play for Slovakia, in Vancouver.

Play begins Feb. 16 in Vancouver.