INDEPENDENCE, Mo. - A Missouri Mavericks player is preparing to hit the ice in the Olympics Thursday.
Henrik Odegaard was selected to play with the Norway Olympic Ice Hockey Team. Norway will take on Canada in their first Sochi game.
Odegaard plays defense for the Mavericks, joining the team at the beginning of the current season.
In his short time with the team, the 26-year-old proved himself to be an aggressive player who works hard to improve his game.
"He's about as North American as a hockey player can be and that means physical, keeping things to the basics," Head Coach Scott Hillman said. "Often the European system is a little more finesse. He's all about physicality and playing in-your-face-type of hockey."
Hillman said Odegaard also quickly established himself as a favorite among his teammates and Mavericks' fans.
"It's really special to play in this building here in Missouri now for the Missouri Mavericks," Odegaard said. "There are Norwegian flags in the stands when I play a game so I really appreciate the support I get from the Mavericks."
Odegaard said he knew there was a possibility he would make it onto the Norwegian Olympic team, but it wasn't until he got the official word through a phone call from his father in the middle of the night here that he realized his dream was becoming a reality.
"They had a press conference back home in Norway in the morning so my dad called me in the middle of the night," Odegaard said. "I knew the team was supposed to be announced that night and so when he called, I was very excited and happily, he said I made the team. So that was really fun."
Odegaard said hockey became a part of his life at a young age in his small town in Norway.
"Norway is not known for hockey at all, it's more cross-country skiing," he said. "But the small town where I'm from, everyone pretty much plays hockey."
Knowing he's representing his country at the biggest sports competition in the world is special for him.
"It's the biggest honor you can have as a hockey player, as an athlete, I would say," Odegaard said. "Olympics is (sic) something special and it's a dream come true. I've always dreamed of playing for the Olympics so it's very cool."
His coach and teammates are proud and behind him the whole way, except during those crucial moments of game time. Then, love for country may take over, in good fun.
"We've all teased him," Hillman said. "About half our locker room is from Canada and half from the U.S. I'm Canadian and he faces off against Team Canada in game number one so I'll wish him well but it's a huge uphill climb for the Norwegians to try and beat Team Canada or Team USA. It'll be exciting and it will be a fun rivalry in the locker room.
Odegaard and the Team Norway take on Canada at 9 p.m. Sochi time on Thursday. You can watch the game live on USA Network at 11 a.m. CST. Fans interested in watching Odegaard and Team Norway are also invited to Saints Pub & Patio at 20220 E. Jackson Drive in Independence, Mo.. Doors will open at 10:30 a.m.
Tune in tonight @ 10:30 p.m. to see Jiao's full story on Odegaard.