Olympic honor a ‘surreal’ opportunity for Ryan Donato, Troy Terry

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NEW YORK – Troy Terry found out during his college break. Ryan Donato received the call last week. Less than a year ago, both had no reason to believe that the person at the other end of the line would be telling them they were Olympians, but thanks to the NHL they’ll be representing their country in PyeongChang at the 2018 Olympics.

“They were special calls. Those were calls that I won’t forget,” said U.S. head coach Tony Granato. “Where they are in their careers to find out they have an opportunity to represent their country, every single one of them was the same reaction.”

There was shock. There was disbelief. There was joy. It was a rollercoaster of emotions. Once the happiness died down, a secret now needed to be held close to the vest until USA Hockey made the official roster announcement during the Winter Classic at Citi Field. Immediate family members knew, but they weren’t going to spill the beans to friends.

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“I didn’t want to hint anything, but I just said there’s a chance, we’ll see,” said Harvard junior Ryan Donato. “But now everybody knows and it’s really exciting.”

“It’s something that’s so exciting. It is hard to try and keep it in sometimes,” added Troy Terry, a junior at Denver.

Donato also has a family tie to representing his country on the international stage. His father, Ted, played for the U.S. at several World Championships, the World Junior Championship and the 1992 Olympic Games in Albertville. He grew idolizing American hockey and has fond memories of his dad and Mike Modano wearing the red, white and blue.

Donato and Terry are getting this Olympic chance thanks to the NHL, who decided against sending its players last spring. Both weren’t even born the last time the league didn’t participate.

The realization they’ll be Olympians is still settling in.

“It is crazy. I think if you had told me this this time last year… no one knew this was coming,” Terry said. “Some people might be upset about the situation, but I’m thrilled that I get an opportunity and I’m excited to take it. It’s going to create an interesting dynamic at the tournament. It’s still pretty surreal … once we go, it’s going to be all business.”

“It’s very surreal,” said Donato. “Obviously, the timing is kind of crazy but it perfectly works. I’m at my junior year at Harvard so [I’m] at the peak of my college career … I didn’t really want to focus too much on it, to be honest, but now that it’s actually here and coming closer it’s very exciting.”

Terry made his mark on the international stage a year ago while helping the U.S. to gold at the World Junior Championship. His shootout heroics helped the Americans beat Canada in the final.

Four years ago in Sochi we had the T.J. Oshie show against Russia. Is Terry up for the challenge should his shootout skills be required in the tournament?

“I don’t know about that. Hopefully we don’t have to go there. I don’t know if I could take it again,” he joked.

“Anytime you’re on an international stage anything can happen. I’m exciting to just have another opportunity to represent [the U.S.]. If it comes to that situation, I’ll do my best. I can’t let everyone down now at this point. I’ll start practicing.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer forPro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line atphtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.