Q&A: USA hockey’s Bobby Butler discusses ‘unbelievable’ Olympics experience

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Bobby Butler had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when he was named to the U.S. Olympic hockey team in January.

The video of the occasion went viral, as Butler embraced his dad when he heard the news he would be traveling to Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The Americans didn’t get the result they were hoping for, finishing seventh after being eliminated in the quarterfinals by the Czech Republic in a shootout.

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However, Butler, who had two assists in the Milwaukee Admirals’ 4-1 win against the Grand Rapids Griffins on Saturday to give him 36 points in 48 games, said he enjoyed his experience immensely, as he discussed the Opening Ceremonies, the bigger ice surface and meeting the gold-medal winning U.S. curling team with Wings Nation.

Wings Nation: How was your Olympic experience?

Bobby Butler: It was unbelievable, it was a great experience. It was everything I expected times 10. It was great to be around these world-class athletes in different sports. The group of guys we had that were put together was unbelievable — coaching staff, training staff. It was definitely an experience I’ll remember forever.

WN: At what point did it hit you that you were playing in the Olympics and representing Team USA?

BB: I think it was maybe our first team bus, when we all got together, I was rockin’ all the USA gear and the coaches are there, all the guys. That’s when I think it hit I was preparing for the Olympics.

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WN: Where was that?

BB: That was in South Korea.

WN: So everyone didn’t meet as a team until you were in South Korea?

BB: Yeah.

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WN: When you have so little time to train with each other, is that chemistry hard to establish?

BB: Yeah, definitely, but we had communications before that and then (assistant coach) Chris (Chelios) did a great job bringing us together. We hung out pretty much until we went to bed, so it was good to be around the guys. We ate every meal (together). (Had we) gotten past our last game (against the Czech Republic), I think we could have done some more damage. I think we represented USA well and just glad for the opportunity. 

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WN: Anybody on any other U.S. team that you ended up meeting?

BB: Yeah, we ended up hanging out with the curling guys leading up to their gold medal. Those guys were cool guys off the, whatever the court is called. They were cool, down-to-Earth guys. We were picking their brains about strategy, and they picked our brains. They seem like awesome guys, and I’m pumped they got the gold.

WN: Did you get a chance to watch that gold-medal match?

BB: I watched from my room, I was kinda packing up, and we ended up seeing them later in between their media tour. I actually flew home with them back to Detroit. They got first-class treatment of course, well-deserved. But it was cool to meet different athletes and get a chance to pick their brains.

WN: Have you tried curling yourself?

BB: I lived in Ottawa, and I honestly never tried it. I should have, I think there was a sheet near me. I always watched on TV when I lived in Canada.

WN: What did you think of the bigger ice surface? Was that hard to adapt to?

BB: I played there the last two years on the big sheet, so it was kinda just getting used to it. And then (Friday night), our first game back, it took me a little time to get used to the small corners, and I was kinda bumping into the boards in warm-up. It’s definitely something to adjust to. I enjoyed it, and I’m just glad to be back and ready for a push here.

WN: Did you attend the Opening Ceremonies?

BB: Yeah, and the closing.

WN: What was that experience like?

BB: It was awesome. To walk into the stadium with all USA athletes and the flag in front of you. It was pretty special.

WN: How were those jackets with the heater inside?

BB: I didn’t end up using the heater. I just dressed a little warmer underneath. But, a lot of guys used them and said it was pretty cool.

WN: Did they let you keep the jacket?

BB: Yeah, I got two big duffle bags full of stuff.

WN: Did you happen to watch the women’s hockey gold-medal game?

BB: I was there live, it was unbelievable. It was nerve-racking, but they were all over them all game. So, I was glad to see they pulled through in the shootout. Especially after the last two Olympics. I knew one of the girls (Kacey Bellamy) I went to college with who was on the last three (Olympic teams). For her to get that gold medal, I thought it was special and well-deserved.

WN: Any sightseeing in South Korea?

BB: Just up to the mountain we got to see a couple times. Besides that, we were pretty busy with stuff until the last two days.

WN: Did you see any other events?

BB: We had time for short track and long track speedskating. It was pretty sick to watch. We always sat with other athletes, picked their brains while we were watching it to see what the strategy was was pretty cool.

WN: With it being Star Wars night at Van Andel Arena, are you a Star Wars fan?

BB: I’m a Trekkie.