The new Mike Eruzione?
SOCHI, Russia -- T.J. Oshie is living large -- even if his largeness is making him more than a little uncomfortable.
A day after he became a sensation with his shootout prowess against the Russians, Oshie found he was being followed by almost three times as many people as before the game -- close to 220,000 people on Twitter -- and actually caught the attention of the president of the United States as the White House tweeted out a congratulations.And if you don't think his teammates are enjoying giving him a hard time about his newfound celebrity, you've never spent much time around a hockey team and, specifically, this U.S. Olympic team.
"He's the new Mike Eruzione, right?" asked Ryan Suter with a gleam in his eye, referring to the captain of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team.
"Now people can talk about the Oshie shootout for the next 30 years," Suter joked.
Suter's father, Bob, played on that seminal 1980 "Miracle On Ice" team, but after Team USA's 3-2 victory Saturday, it was Oshie who ended up hanging out with legendary broadcaster Al Michaels, who uttered the famous "Do you believe in miracles?" line that would define the 1980 team for more than three decades.
"Yeah. Oh yeah," Suter said. "We're giving him a hard time. I even told my dad that. He was like, 'Yeah, finally we can quit talking about it for a while.'"
Oshie is a good-natured fellow, although he refused to let the media in on the many jokes and jabs that have been hurled his way since Saturday's emotional win over Russia.
"I'm trying to get them to change their focus on someone else, so I don't want the media saying it, too," Oshie said, referring to Phil Kessel, who scored three times in Sunday's 5-1 win over Slovenia. "Maybe they'll start giving Phil a hard time."
Sorry, no such luck. Not after Oshie scored on four of the six shootout attempts he made on Saturday at the Bolshoy Ice Dome in front of a jam-packed crowd, which included Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He said it didn't take long after Saturday's game for the abuse to begin.
"I was talking to the media for a little bit," Oshie said. "Me and Quickie [netminder Jonathan Quick] there. Got undressed. A couple good words from the guys in the locker room. That's when the jokes started -- right when I walked in."
What was the best jab?
"I told you, I've got to squash these," the 27-year-old said.
"Zach [Parise] has one that he's got going that I'm trying to get him to stop doing that," he said.
Not that it's been all bad.
He did get an invite to hang out with Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, NBC's announcing team for "Sunday Night Football."
"It was pretty cool seeing all those guys," Oshie admitted. "I played [football] in high school a little bit. I was terrible. But now I'm a football fan, so it was pretty cool to meet him."
His St. Louis teammate and Sochi roommate, David Backes, said Oshie isn't letting all the attention go to his head.
"I think we're all just so happy that he's on our team and he performed the way he did," Backes said. "Obviously there's a little grief when the White House is tweeting you, and who knows what else is sent his way. But that comes with the territory, and he takes it all in stride.
"He came back to the room last night after doing the interviews, and NBC put makeup on him and he's like, 'I think they're blowing this a little out of proportion.' He jumped right into the shower. I don't think he wanted anyone to see it. He'll probably kill me for telling you that, but that's part of the ribbing he deserves."
Head coach Dan Bylsma was impressed with Oshie's follow-up game Sunday, crediting the hard-working winger's line with helping jolt the team out of a midgame stupor.
"I talked to Oshie after the game last night and you know, I jokingly said, 'You know, you're going to have to play again tomorrow,'" Bylsma said. "He's got a lot of attention and followers, more so than after the previous game.
"You know, he was a big spark for us; even tonight he provided the best shift of the game. His speed and his skill was all in there, and we kept pushing up with that line -- and T.J. in particular. So Day 1 was not bad. It was a good response from him."