Olympic Hockey Star T.J. Oshie Has Sioux Falls Ties and Minnesota Family
Hockey fans, Olympic fans, and people like me who got caught up in it because of social media, have ALL gotten to know the name T.J. Oshie this weekend. Oshie has become a star on the international stage of the Sochi Olympics when he scored on four of six shootout attempts early Saturday morning (U.S. time) to down host country Russia in front of Putin and the rest of the world. Despite his rising star, he hasn't forgotten where he came from and remains a humble star.
I honestly haven't been paying a lot of attention to the Winter Games until this weekend. I was having some coffee early Saturday morning and had gone to Facebook where a lot of my friends were posting about the U.S./Russia hockey game which had started about 6:30am our time. One of those that was posting was an old high school friend of mine from Minneapolis who happens to be related to Oshie. With status' like "Grandma Oshie just jumped off the couch! Go Osh!" and "I'm pacing the floor like a crackhead watching my nephew @OSH74", I HAD to tune in to watch the thrilling end to the game.
There standing at center ice was T.J. Oshie of the St. Louis Blues, but at this moment, more importantly, representing the United States in Olympic hockey. As he scored for a fourth time on six shots in the shootout, he sent the U.S. to a win over Russia in the 8th round. It wasn't for the gold or even a medal, but social media exploded anyway. The closing call of "So many people paid their rubles to see their team win. Not this game. Not tonight". Not exactly 'Do you believe in miracles?" but it still gave everyone that sense of American pride.
And the star was a young man who played his high school hockey in "Hockeytown USA" of Warroad, Minnesota, a tiny town of less than 2000 people just a couple miles south of the Canadian border. The latest in a string of hockey stars that played a Warroad. In fact, did you know that no U.S. Olympic team has ever won the gold medal WITHOUT a player from Warroad on their roster?
And did you know that Oshie actually played 11 games for the Sioux Falls Stampede? He came here in the 2004-05 season following his senior year at Warroad that saw him score 37 goals and 63 assists in 31 games. Oshie soon left for the University of North Dakota following his brief appearance here in Sioux Falls that saw him score three goals and assist on two others.
Oshie has become a fan favorite in St. Louis, but his biggest fans remain his family members back in northern Minnesota. One of my favorite stories that I saw following the thrilling game was of a text he sent to his 8-year old cousin Kaden Oshie who naturally worships the ground his famous cousin walks on. Kaden plays hockey himself, often rotating between his St. Louis Blues and Fighting Sioux jerseys. T.J. Oshie had just become a worldwide star, getting mentioned in a tweet from President Barack Obama, gaining 57,000 Twitter followers in the hours following the game, getting interviewed by Al Michaels and more, and yet young Kaden Oshie, who watched the game with my old high school friend who is his grandpa, got this text from T.J.: "Good Luck at Ur game today Kade. Play Hard lil Cuz!!! And always remember that some Dreams do come true. See You soon Love ya!! Tj..."
T.J. Oshie has made a name for himself already, medal or no medal, but when he was called a hero by a reporter after the game, in typical Oshie/Minnesota upbringing, he replied "No. The real heroes wear camo. I'm not one of them."
Oshie didn't have any dramatic goals or assists Sunday morning as he and Team U.S.A. easily handled Slovenia 5-1 to win Group A with a perfect record as they move on in the Olympics, but his family, plus Minnesota, North Dakota, Sioux Falls and most of the United States, will be pulling for Oshie and his teammates to bring home the gold.
And I for one look forward to watching the game through the help of social media, with an old high school classmate and his grandson cheering the family on.
Go Osh! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!