While a good section of the American public sits at home and watches Team USA compete in the Olympic Hockey tournament in Vancouver this Winter, many people may be asking themselves, "Where are these kids from?" or might be saying, "That kid's an American? I definitely thought he was Canadian." Well, they aren't in fact Canadian, they're Americans, and a large number of them have roots right here in Michigan. Here's a quick look at the stars of USA hockey that have connections to the state of Michigan.
USA's starting goaltender, Ryan Miller, was born in East Lansing, Michigan and comes from a family that has a great hockey history with Michigan State University. Miller spent three years at MSU, where he was named CCHA goaltender of the year in all three seasons and became the second Spartan to ever win the Hobey Baker award (College Hockey's MVP). His cousin Kip Miller is the other Spartan that won the Hobey. Miller was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in 1999 and since then has solidified their starting goalie position. His brother Drew also played three years at MSU and is currently a member of the Detroit Red Wings.
USA backup goaltender Tim Thomas was born in Davison, Michigan and raised in Flint. He played his college hockey at the University of Vermont. After college, Thomas spent several seasons playing in international leagues and lower level North American leagues, including one season with the Detroit Vipers. Thomas finally broke through with the Boston Bruins during the 2005-06 season and has been their starter since then.
Brian Rafalski, from Dearborn, Michigan, is one of the few veterans on the US Olympic team and is serving as one of the team's alternate captains. Rafalksi played his collegiate hockey at the University of Wisconsin before moving on to play internationally. Rafalski made his NHL debut for the New Jersey Devils during the 1999-00 season and since then has played in five Stanley Cup Finals, winning the championship three times. Rafalski was signed by his hometown Detroit Red Wings in 2007.
Born in Bloomington, Minnesota, Erik Johnson is one of the few Americans to be selected first overall in the NHL entry draft (2006 - St. Louis). Although he is from Minnesota, Johnson did most of his preparation for professional hockey in Ann Arbor, Michigan, playing with the US National Team Development Program. He played one season for the University of Minnesota before signing with the Blues.
USA defenseman Tim Gleason is from Clawson, Michigan. Gleason spent four seasons near Detroit with the Windsor Spitfires before being drafted by the Ottawa Senators in 2001. Gleason has spent the past three seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Jack Johnson, born in Indianapolis, Indiana, was originally drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes, but his rights were traded to the Los Angeles Kings in a deal that involved USA teammate Tim Gleason. Before joining the Kings, Johnson played two seasons with the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor. Johnson was also the only American NHL player to take part in the opening ceremonies in Vancouver.
21-year-old USA forward Patrick Kane was born in Buffalo, New York. Kane began his professional development as a member of the Honeybaked AAA hockey club in Detroit before joining the US National Development Program in Ann Arbor. Kane already has a bronze and gold medal as a member of the USA World Junior team. After playing one season with the London Knights of the OHL, Kane joined the Chicago Blackhawks.
Phil Kessel is another one of the numerous American NHL stars who was a member of the US National Development program in Ann Arbor. After playing there, he joined the Minnesota Golden Gophers for one season. Kessel's NHL career began with the Boston Bruins, before being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kessel was born in Madison, Wisconsin, and his father Phil Kessel Sr. played college football at Northern Michigan University before being drafted by the Washington Redskins.
Ryan Kesler, born in Livonia, Michigan, began playing competitive AAA hockey as a member of Detroit Honeybaked. From there he joined the US National Development program in Ann Arbor, before playing one season with the Ohio State Buckeyes. Kesler played one season with the Manitoba Moose before becoming a superstar as a member of the Vancouver Canucks.
Veteran and team USA captain Jamie Langenbrunner was born in Cloquet, Minnesota. His only connection to the state of Michigan came in 1995-96 as a member of the Michigan K-Wings in the IHL. His impressive performance with the K-Wings provided a call-up by the Dallas Stars of the NHL, and Langenbrunner has been in the NHL ever since.
Team USA hockey is full of veteran and young, up-and-coming talent that have connections to the state of Michigan and the tremendous Amateur, Collegiate, and Professional programs in Michigan. The U.S. world junior team captured the gold medal earlier this year by defeating Team Canada in Saskatchewan, proving that the US National Development Program has become one of the elite programs in the world. Look for USA to try and bring home another gold with a little help from the state of Michigan.