Ice hockey: Americans can play it too

Texas represents in Beijing

Nice to see extreme sports like BMX make it to the Olympics. Conroe, Texas native Kyle Bennett represented the United States in the sports’ debut at the Olympics. Fellow American Mike Day took home the silver and Donny Robinson took the bronze, while Jill Kintner also got a bronze in the women’s competition.

The Texas ties continue with gymnastics, as Nastia Liukin’s pockets will be lined with individual (one gold, two silver and a bronze) and team (silver) medals from Beijing. Houstonians Jonathan Horton and Raj Bhavsar helped the men’s team to a team bronze and Horton won an individual silver in the men’s high bar final.

But the Winter Olympics are cooler

Is it too early to be looking ahead to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada? I know everyone wants to read about curling, but men’s ice hockey will be the marquee sport.

The U.S. has not won a gold since the 1980 "Miracle on Ice," in which a group of college kids coached by Herb Brooks upset powerhouse Russia en route to winning the gold against Finland. The 1998 team in Nagano was a disaster, the 2002 team in Salt Lake City won silver and the 2006 team in Torino failed to even medal.

The team that will take the ice in 2010 will be young, but youthful exuberance may conquer inexperience. The Buffalo Sabres’ Ryan Miller should get the nod as the starter at the goal, the most important position. Miller will give the Americans their best chance to win since the days of the Rangers’ Mike Richter. The New York Islanders’ Rick DiPietro and the Detroit’s Red Wings’ Ty Conklin will likely back up Miller.

Center Chris Drury (who is a prime candidate to captain the New York Rangers this season) should captain the 2010 team. Drury has been clutch everywhere he has played, and was also the winning pitcher in the Little League World Series. He leads by example and his work ethic is a coach’s dream.

Ranger Scott Gomez, Los Angeles King Dustin Brown, Calgary Flame Mike Cammalleri, Chicago Blackhawk Patrick Kane and possibly former Houston Aero and current King Patrick O’Sullivan are talented forwards who should easily make the team.

Securing a spot on defense will be a tough lineup to crack. NHL regulars will battle to patrol the blue line.

However, high draft picks who have yet to play regularly in the NHL such as Tampa Bay Lightning Matt Smaby, Ranger Bobby Sanguinetti and Atlanta Thrasher Zach Bogosian are defensemen who may also have a legit shot.

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