ADLER, Russia -- He began playing hockey in Seattle, but it was in small Minnesota town with enough Olympic history to justify its claim as "Hockeytown USA" that T.J. Oshie became a dreamer.
Warroad, population 1,781 and anchored to the Lake of the Woods which separates the United States and Canada, revolves around The Gardens Arena, an indoor rink where the ice was available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
It was there that the teenage Oshie walked beneath the portraits of Warroad's six Olympic medal winners hanging over the lobby and out onto an Olympic-size sheet of ice, before skating off into the miracles of his imagination.
"That's really where my love for the game really grew because you could skate every day, you go out there and be by yourself and in the Gardens," Oshie, the U.S. and St. Louis Blues forward, said. "You were out there and playing, doing cool scenarios like shootouts in the Olympics."
Oshie's shootout heroics in Team USA's 3-2 Olympic Games victory against Russia on Saturday seemed straight out of his dreams. What he didn't think about out there on Garden's wide-open ice was what happens after you win a shootout for the ages?
As the rest of the world rechristened these Games the "SOSHIE OLYMPICS," it was clear they had a reluctant hero.
"You know you're going to have to play tomorrow," U.S. coach Dan Bylsma joked to Oshie on Saturday night after the Russia win.
On Day One of the rest of Timothy Oshie Jr.'s life, he continued to step up for Team USA, providing the spark to a 5-1 victory against Slovenia on Sunday that secured first place in Group A and a quarterfinal spot.
"So Day One was not bad," Bylsma said. "It was a good response for him."
Still Oshie, 27, is visibly uneasy in the spotlight that has followed him since he almost singlehandedly delivered another epic chapter in the Winter Olympics' greatest rivalry, a rivalry rooted in the Cold War and elevated by a miracle.
"You would have thought after Rocky kicked Ivan Drago's (rear) the Russians would have learned not to mess with USA," tweeted former U.S. and Dallas star Mike Modano.
Indeed if Saturday's instant classic didn't have the David vs. Goliath element that defined the Miracle On Ice, it still seemed to follow a Hollywood script.
When 60 minutes of regulation, another five minutes of overtime and three shootout rounds could not separate the U.S. and Russia, Oshie, the kid from a small Midwestern town, found himself in a moment he had dreamed about back at The Gardens: alone on his sport's biggest global stage through five sudden-death shootout rounds, finally in the eighth round scoring the deciding goal, his fourth in six shootout attempts.
"I don't know if the US won or TJ Oshie won that was amazing," tweeted Mike Eruzione, captain of the 1980 gold-medal team.
Said U.S. and Ducks defensman Cam Fowler, "He was in the zone. He did something special today."
Yet Oshie doesn't feel special. American hockey's newest superhero is unwilling to don a cape.
"The American heroes are wearing camo," Oshie told reporters late Saturday night. "That's not me."
Oshie has a cousin and close friend currently in the U.S. military, although he said he didn't feel comfortable revealing where they are serving.
"And when I heard the word hero it just didn't really, didn't really seem that's what I am, what hockey players are," Oshie said Sunday after the Slovenia victory. "Those guys sacrifice a lot more than a couple of hours in the gym and practice every day. Those guys sacrifice their lives."
Oshie's throwback personality will further endear him to a nation starving for American stars at an Olympics so far largely devoid of them.
"I think you are going to see T.J. Oshie be a household name after that display he put on (Saturday)," said David Backes, Oshie's U.S. and St. Louis teammate.
Even in the White House.
"Congrats to T.J. Oshie and the U.S. men's hockey team on a huge win!" President Obama tweeted shortly after the game. "Never stop believing in miracles."
"Can you top that one?" Oshie said. "For him to go out of his way and his busy life and to reach out to myself and my teammates is pretty special."
Oshie had around 80,000 twitter followers when the U.S. and Russia took the ice Saturday afternoon. By Sunday night he had more than 221,000. Among Oshie's new followers is Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who tweeted, "With the world watching and your country hanging on every shot, insane amount of pressure. Unreal work by (Oshie)."
"People are probably going to get bored with my tweets and hit the unfollow button," Oshie said. "'So enough of this Soshie guy, get him out of here.'"
For now, however, he is the most sought-after athlete at the Olympics. After dealing with the media at the Bolshoy Ice Dome following the Russia game, he was hauled to the Main Press Center for an even larger news conference. Then it was off for another interview with Dan Patrick and later to hang out with Patrick and his NBC "Sunday Night Football" colleagues Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth. Or as Oshie referred to him Sunday "Mr. Collinsworth."
Oshie was asked Sunday if the Miracle On Ice came up during his conversation with Michaels.
"I really don't remember too much of the talks," he said. "I was shaking a little bit."
But it wasn't until after talking to his family and his fiancee that the impact of the moment really hit him.
"Then it kind of got the heart going a little bit," Oshie said.
Around 12:30 a.m. he tried to sleep. "That didn't work too well," he said.
Sunday afternoon he finally stopped shaking.
"When we got to the rink today, I didn't want this to be something to carried over into our game," he said. "So got to the rink today, did my pregame routine, took my mind off it."
Oshie's discomfort in the spotlight is a reflection of his personality and upbringing and an unfamiliarity with it.
"That's the exactly the way he is," Backes said. "He's a humble guy who's got a lot of God-given talent but knows he puts his work in to get what he accomplishes, accomplished."
At the University of North Dakota, he played in the shadow of future Chicago Blackhawks and Team Canada star Jonathan Toews. With St. Louis he has continued to largely fly under the radar of the national media despite winning the NHL's 2008-09 Goal of the Year and leading the league this season in shootout goals.
Oshie's family is from Warroad but he grew up north of Seattle. He moved to Minnesota with his father when he was in high school at the suggestion of cousin Henry Boucha, a Warroad native and member of the silver medal-winning U.S. team in 1972.
Warroad celebrates each New Year with fireworks as the town's residents play hockey and skate. But it has been on Olympic ice where Warroad natives have shined brightest.
Dave Christian, a member of the 1980 gold medal team, grew up in Warroad. So did his father, Bill, and uncle, Roger, both members of the 1960 Olympic champions. Another Christian, Gord, picked up a silver medal at the 1956 Games.
Oshie was king of the 2005 Frosty Festival, Warroad High's winter dance. The dance's queen was Gigi Marvin, pursing her own gold medal with the U.S. women's team.
In many ways Oshie is still that same kid who escorted Marvin to the dance, the same kid who walked past the portraits of the Christians and Hockeytown USA's other Olympians every day on the way to chasing his own golden moment around the wide-open spaces of The Gardens and his imagination.
"Still the same guy," he said Sunday, "a hockey player out here having fun."
A dreamer no longer alone in his dreams.
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