Gionta ready for second crack at Olympic gold, this time as captain

(WHAM photo)

From a hockey standpoint, Brian Gionta has pretty much done it all.

He was a national champ at Boston College in 2001. He won the Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 2003. In 2010, he became just the second American-born captain of the Montreal Canadiens. Four years later, he was named captain of the team he grew up cheering for, the Buffalo Sabres.

Now, at the age of 39, he's captain of the United States Olympic team.

"It's what I've been working for all year," Gionta said. "You think of the Olympics, you think of the stage you're on, but add being the captain of it, is pretty special."

This is all possible thanks to a decision Gionta made this off-season. When the right NHL offer never came along, and with NHL players banned from the Olympics, he decided instead to practice with his hometown Rochester Americans. In this case, practice made perfect.

"It's been everything we've wanted," the native of Greece, New York said. "I've had that family time and still worked towards that goal."

That goal is now to do better this year than he did twelve years ago.

Gionta scored four times in the 2006 games, but Team USA won just once, and finished in 8th place.

But this time?

"The field's wide open," Gionta explained.

He's right. Russia was banned from the games this year. As mentioned, NHL players aren't participating.

"So there's no clear cut favorite," Gionta added. "I like our chances to go in there and have an opportunity to medal."

But beyond the wins and losses, the gold and the glory, is the experience, which is something Gionta says 12 years after his first time, he hopes he can enjoy a little more this time.

"You never know when it's going to be your last time, but at this stage of my career it's a pretty foregone conclusion that it would be," Gionta said. "I've been in a lot of tournaments, but it would be pretty special to go out on top."

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