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Long-distance Olympic hockey preparation has begun for the Admirals' Bobby Butler

Dave Kallmann, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on

Published in Olympics

Perhaps "Miracle" is your reference point.

The 2004 movie told the true and inspiring story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey squad: A group of young amateurs is brought together and built up over months by a fiery, rogue coach to the point it is able to upset a team of Cold War-era Russian pros and then ultimately win the gold medal.

Yeah ... it doesn't work quite that way these days.

The Pyeongchang Games are a month away. Most of the American team was announced on New Year's Day. There have been no international tours, and certainly no vomit-inducing training sessions. For that matter, the players haven't stepped on the ice even once as a unit.

"It's all done over the phone, through messaging and everything," said Bobby Butler, a Milwaukee Admirals forward who realized a childhood dream when he was selected.

"We'll talk to the coaches, the assistant coaches here in the next few weeks and they'll kind of tell us in the next few weeks what's going to happen and how to prepare.

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"I think everyone just needs to compete every game they have up (with his current team) until then, until you're at the Olympics. It's not that you just show up and play. You have to start preparing now."

Butler, 30, is familiar with all of the other 22 names on U.S. roster so far -- two goaltenders will be added -- and knows five or six of the players personally.

The group includes 15 players with National Hockey League experience (including Butler, who has played 132 games with four teams), 15 who are skating this season in Europe, four collegians, three players from the American Hockey League (including Butler) and one past Olympian. The average age is a shade over 29.

Butler, a nine-year pro, will arrive in South Korea in time for the opening ceremony Feb. 9 and have all of four practices with his new teammates before the puck drops for the U.S.-Slovenia game Feb. 14.

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