Washington Capitals forward Steve Konowalchuk is the only National Hockey League player from Salt Lake City.
And he is one of only two NHLers listed as a Mormon on a Mormon athletes Web site. That's news to him.
"That's funny because I'm not a Mormon." Konowalchuk said. "I have nothing against them. My mother is a Mormon. But I'm not."
The other player, Minnesota Wild centre Aaron Gavey, confirmed he is a Mormon. In a perfect world, Konowalchuk would be playing a significant role for the Capitals and preparing for the Winter Olympics in his hometown. No American-born hockey player had anticipated the Winter Games more than him.
But the nine-season NHL veteran underwent major reconstructive surgery on his right shoulder last Oct. 16 and his chance to play at home in the Olympics disappeared.
"Obviously, it would have been exciting for me and my family," the Capitals forward said. "But that's the way it goes."
Konowalchuk was one of 37 players invited to the U.S. orientation camp in Colorado Springs, Colo. There were two forward spots available and if coach Herb Brooks decided he needed a checker, Konowalchuk would have been his man.
In the first five games of the season, Konowalchuk registered three assists, but he was troubled by a shoulder that kept popping out. It even dislocated when he rolled over in bed while sleeping in his hotel room in Phoenix.
"I knew right off the bat that surgery would end my Olympic dream," he said. "But if I don't have surgery and continue to play, and then come January need surgery anyway, well, then I miss the entire season with Washington."
Three months later, he is back skating and practising with the Capitals. The next step is being cleared for contact and if that happens soon, Konowalchuk hopes to return after the Olympic break on Feb. 26 when Washington plays host to the Florida Panthers.
There will be no trip home to take in any of the Winter Games action because Konowalchuk will be busy working himself into shape during the Olympics.
"People will love it there," he said. "My mother still lives there and I have a sister and a grandma still living there. It's a beautiful city."
Salt Lake City is not exactly a hotbed of hockey. In fact, when Konowalchuk was growing up he described the minor-hockey program there as "weak."
But Konowalchuk's father, Wally, was born just north of Edmonton in Lac La Biche, Alta., and when he married a Salt Lake City woman, Wally brought his passion for hockey to Utah and instilled it in his two sons.
When Steve was 15 and his brother Brian 16, the two boys moved to Prince Albert to further their development. Brian earned a four-year hockey scholarship to the University of Denver and Steve was drafted by the Portland Winterhawks.
"[The Winterhawks]actually were more interested in Brian and they were hoping he wouldn't like it in Denver," said Wally, whose older son is now an orthopedic surgeon in Minneapolis. "I told them I have another son, but they were skeptical because he had never played junior hockey, just AAA midget.
"I think they put him on their list just in case Brian decided to leave school. He was their team MVP his first year and the league MVP the next year."