Woodridge, Ill. --
Note: This is a joke. If you are reading about hockey in August, obviously you get it.
"No comment," he said, "but good effort on that one."
Before we turn to the abridged story of the likely second-line Team USA center, who happened to be born in Canada and describes himself as "100 per cent Slovakian," consider the shifting alliances -- professional and even personal -- that suffuse the Olympics.
At the USA orientation camp, team general manager
And next week in Calgary, key members of the brain trust of Team Canada, who spend the NHL season working for America's Hockey Team, the Red Wings -- including GM
In 1998, Sweden turfed its star defenseman
Like itinerant farm workers, a hockey player with international aspirations sometimes has to go where the work is.
This would hardly raise an eyebrow if Paul Stastny's father were not perhaps the most well known Slovak of them all:
Peter's boy Paul playing for Slovakia would be like
Although Paul is working on the papers now, he doesn't actually hold Slovakian citizenship at the moment. And with current rules requiring that players born outside the country play two years plus one day in a Slovak-sanctioned league, Paul wouldn't be eligible, anyway.
Years ago, the 23-year-old Stastny could have tried his luck with Canada, despite the deeper talent pool. He, like the other Stastny children including Yan, who scored three goals last season in 34 games with the St. Louis Blues and has twice represented the USA at the worlds, was born in Quebec. Paul lived there as a boy until the age of six and still understands although rarely speaks French. "(I just hang in background in the dressing, listening to the French-speaking guys.") But most of his childhood was spent in St. Louis, where he has been based almost 15 years. He still spends summers there with his family. Peter checks in for at least six weeks.
"Playing for the USA comes naturally," said Paul, a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen. "When you're younger, you just want to play internationally. You get a chance to play for the country you're raised in, that's a source of pride. Obviously my home is always going to be in the United States. But we speak Slovakian at home. That's where all my blood is. All the family bloodlines go through Slovakia."
The entire Stastny family returned to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, last month, the first time in 12 years they all gone back together. If Paul's language skills had deteriorated, they were revived by the visit although he won't get much chance to use them around Team USA.
Many of the players in camp here are bilingual, but the two languages they speak are English and blue.