These days, Missouri Mavericks defenseman Henrik Ødegaard seems to have a perpetual smile on his face.
He even managed a smile following Tuesday night's 4-1 loss to the Allen Americans at the Independence Events Center.
“Certainly I do no not like the outcome of tonight's game, but it is so good to be back on the ice with the boys,” said Ødegaard, who had been away from his Mavericks teammates since Feb. 3, when he joined other members of the Norway hockey team at the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. “I was watching them, keeping up with them in Sochi, and I am so happy they played so well while I was gone. That made it easier to be away.”
The Mavericks climbed the Central Hockey League ladder to first place with a 7-2 record while Ødegaard was at the Winter Olympics. While he was not on the ice, he was in his teammates' minds.
“We are all so proud of him,” said team captain Sebastien Thinel, who scored the lone goal in Tuesday night's loss to the Americans. “We were missing one of our top defenders while Henrik was away, but we were all so happy for him. He was representing his country, and the Mavericks, while he was in Sochi. We paid attention to all his hockey games and wanted to know how he and his team did in their games.”
The Norway squad did not win a game, going 0-4, but it opened with a 3-1 loss to a gold medalist Canadian team that featured Sidney Crosby, a player many believe to be the best in the world. It also lost to bronze medalist Finland and host Russia, and those teams also feature mostly players from the NHL, including Russia’s Alex Ovechkin, who is also in the argument as the world’s best player. The other loss was to Austria.
“It was amazing to play, and play so well, against the Canadians,” said Ødegaard, who got a shout-out on the broadcast, as the announcing team even mentioned the Mavericks while Ødegaard was playing in Sochi. “They talked about the Mavericks? Nice … I was wondering if they might say something about Missouri. I was actually playing for Norway and the fans here in Independence. They were so good to me before I left for Sochi, I was thinking about them.”
While coach Scott Hillman said a recent two-game weekend trip to Denver took a bit of the wind out of his team's sails, he said one player entered play Tuesday night with a world of energy.
“You could tell Odie was happy to be back,” Hillman said. “He's battling jet lag, and the fact that he went from Russia, to his home in Norway, to a six-hour layover in New York before he got back here Monday. But you could never tell it from the way he played (tonight). We hoped to survive while he was gone, and we did better than that, winning seven games. But it sure is nice to see No. 42 back out on the ice.”
Ødegaard said the 10-hour time difference between Russia and Independence will pose no problems as the Mavericks play Friday in St. Charles, Mo., then return to the Events Center for games Saturday (Wichita) and Sunday (St. Charles).
“I get rest when I can, and I am lucky that I can sleep on a bus,” Ødegaard said before the team left to play Wednesday night’s game against the Quad City Mallards in Moline, Ill. “I am not worried about the time change. I just want to help this team win a championship. That is all I am thinking about now. The Olympics were a great experience, something I will remember the rest of my life, but I want to remember a championship season the rest of my life, too.”
Ødegaard kept an exclusive Olympic diary that will be featured in an upcoming issue of The Examiner.