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October 05, 2017

Legends of Team Canada: Kirk Muller

People tend to forget that Kirk Muller played in the Olympics before he was even drafted second overall in the 1984 NHL draft.
Muller did not start the season planning on chasing Olympic glory. It just sort of came together.
"It was my third year junior and it was getting a little stale," he said, "but I had no intention of going to the Olympics because the word at the beginning of the year was they weren't taking junior guys."
But Olympic team coach Dave King had a watchful eye on the Canadian junior at the world junior championship just a few weeks prior to the Olympics. Canada finished fourth, but King convinced Muller, Russ Courtnall and Dave Gagner to leave their junior clubs and join the national team. 
"I thought, 'Wow, that would be awesome,' " Muller recalled. "I thought, 'What a great way to go into your draft, what great hockey it would be.' "
"It happened so fast," he said. "Other athletes prepare for four years, maybe a lifetime. I kept thinking, 'Oh my god, a month ago I didn't think I'd be here.'
In the next 14 days, Muller played "10 or 11" games, criss-crossing North America to play with the Olympic team while still squeezing in some games with the OHL Guelph Platers. 
Muller had to leave the Platers mid-season as he was told he had made the Olympic team and he had to go overseas to train. 
"We trained in Germany for a week and, boom, we were in the Olympics," he said. "Everything happened quick but putting the Canada jersey on ... all of a sudden I was really getting excited. Aside from the hockey part, I'm like, 'Wow, I'm going to be involved in the Olympics.' "
Muller scored two goals in Sarajevo, both in an 8-1 win over Austria. Of course Canada finished out of the medals.
"My daughter said the other day, 'Oh, man, you just missed out on a bronze medal at the Olympics.' I thought, 'Shoot.' At the time, well, a bronze in the hockey world for Canadians isn't that big of a deal. If you didn't get the gold, who really cared back then?
"It would mean more to me now to say I got a bronze medal at the Olympics."
But at the time Muller's focus was strictly on the NHL, even while he was at the Olympics.
"You couldn't help but think what a great experience it is but I was focusing more on, 'This is my draft year, I'm playing against the Russians, this will tell how I'll measure up in the NHL next year.' My thing was, 'I'm here at the Olympics and I'm enjoying it' but a lot of it was, 'Where am I in the hockey world?' "
The Canadians finished fourth at the tournament, failing to score a goal in any of the three games of the medal round. Canada lost the bronze-medal game 2-0 to Sweden.
The rest, as they say, is history. Muller went on to a fantastic career in the NHL, most notably with New Jersey and Montreal where he won a Stanley Cup in 1993.

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