Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Getting To Know Your 2010 U.S. Men's Olympic Hockey Team: Brian Rafalski

Somehow, we hammered out half of the defensemen yesterday, which means we're on pace to get through the goaltenders by week's end, Monday at the latest. Today's first selection is a must read for all one of you readers that have been skimming these installments. Get crackin'.

Brian Rafalksi was born in Dearborn, Michigan in 1973. He is the first player we've examined in this feature not taken in the NHL Draft. He played all four years of college for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and subsequently travelled overseas to play as it appeared there were no prospects of him being signed by a professional club. In 1999, however, the New Jersey Devils signed him as a free agent, making him a 26-year-old rookie the following season. Since that campaign, Rafalski has done little more than being named to the NHL's rookie all-star team (that year), earn two All-Star Game appearances, play in five Stanley Cup Finals, and win three of them.

Rafalski was part of the silver-medal-winning U.S. Olympic team in 2002, and represented Team USA again in '06. In 10 seasons as a pro, Rafalski has found the twine 71 times, registered 382 assists, generated over 17,000 minutes of ice time, and put together an amazing career +160 in the plus-minus category. Prior to the 2007 season, Rafalski became a Detroit Red Wing, again through free agency. Rafalski will serve as one of four alternate captains in the Vancouver games.