Final stretch for NHLers before Olympics

Iginla: Itís hard to believe itís already here


CALGARY ó The Winter Olympics officially kick off Friday night, but at least 23 Canadian athletes wonít be walking into B.C. Place Stadium.

The menís hockey team is still involved in working their day jobs, and most athletes would feel a pang of jealousy for an event in which they donít get to take part.

But for Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla and Dallas Stars counterpart Brenden Morrow, just being asked to be part of the team is special enough.

The Flames have an off-day, so Iginla admitted he will be watching when Clara Hughes carries the flag and leads the Canadian contingent at the ceremonies.

ďI think the opening ceremonies are great,Ē said Iginla, who is going to his third Games. ďItís obviously a big part of the Olympics but I feel fortunate I get to participate in any part of the Games,. I get to be part of it whether itís early or late, Iím still happy to be there.Ē

The Flames play the Anaheim Ducks Saturday night at home before Iginla and teammates Miikka Kiprusoff and Niklas Hagman heads to Vancouver and join their nationís best.

Although the Olympians have known for more than a month they are going to Vancouver, this is the final stretch of concentration on their NHL clubs before it starts.

ďItís hard to believe itís already here,Ē Iginla said. ďIn the past couple of weeks, there was a lot of commercials and buzz.

ďAs NHLers playing every second day and travelling, itís kind of snuck up on us. Itís exciting itís here. Itís not quite there yet. We have an important weekend of games head of us.

ďSome teams are in a more relaxed position but our team knows the importance of these games because these teams are chasing us. Right now, the focus is still here.Ē

Morrow is competing at his first Olympics and this is the final stage in a long process to get here.

After injuring his knee last December, Morrow missed most of last season recovering with a goal of getting back and being named to the team Dec. 30.

When it happened, he was over the moon.

ďI didnít sleep that whole night so I might now have sounded as excited as I was on the phone,Ē Morrow said. ďI was pretty tired when I was talking.

ďIt kept me motivated and pushing hard through the summer to come back 100% and give myself a chance to make a good impression (at the summer camp).

ďIíve represented Canada at a lot of events but the Olympics is the pinnacle. Itís the big one. To be included on that team is pretty special.Ē

The Stars head to Phoenix Friday for a final outing against the Coyotes Saturday before Morrow heads to Vancouver.

With a team bonding session planned for Friday night, Morrow isnít sure he will see any of the Opening Ceremonies.

ďIt would be great if we had our break starting tonight and we could all be part of it,Ē Morrow said.

ďThat would be a good feeling walking in there with all those festivities going on.

ďFor us just to be part of that team, weíre not going to be disappointed.Ē