By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
Most Western Hockey League players aspire to one day represent their country in the Olympics.
Indeed, 31 former WHLers are currently suiting up in Sochi, Russia, for the Olympics. That includes two former Everett Silvertips defensemen: Ivan Baranka for Slovakia and Radko Gudas for the Czech Republic.
But the key term is “former.” For those currently plying their trade in the WHL, who are aged 16-20, the Olympics are a distant dream, a goal to strive for well down the road.
So how unexpected would it be for a current WHLer to have a YOUNGER sibling taking the ice at the Olympics?
Such is the case for Everett defenseman Mirco Mueller, whose younger sister Alina is currently representing their native Switzerland at the Winter Games.
“It’s not very often that your younger sister plays in the Olympics,” Mueller said following practice Wednesday at Comcast Arena. “It’s definitely a cool thing and I’m very excited for her.”
One would think Mirco Mueller is on the fast track to the Olympics himself. The 18-year-old is a first-round NHL draft pick. He’s already represented his nation twice at the World Junior Hockey Championships, despite still having one year of eligibility remaining.
Yet it’s his three-years-younger sibling who hit the highest international stage first. The 15-year-old Alina Mueller, who plays forward for the Swiss, is the youngest player competing in Olympic hockey this year.
“I get chirped for that a little bit,” a smiling Mirco Mueller said about getting beat to the Olympics by his younger sister. “But it’s definitely pretty cool. I’m not jealous or anything. It’s super cool for her and I’m excited for her.”
The Muellers received their hockey education while growing up in their hometown of Winterthur, Switzerland. But the elder Mueller, who stands at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, takes no credit for the development of his little sister, who’s listed at 5-foor-4 and 110 pounds, into an Olympian.
“She figured it out on her own,” said Mirco Mueller, who added the siblings never played together in any formal sense. “If she would have asked, I would have given her tips, but she was fine by herself.
“I think she plays pretty good for her age,” Mirco Mueller added. “She’s only 15, so she’s definitely having fun and learning a lot, for sure. I think she’s a good skater — I think we’re a little similar like that. She’s definitely a little faster in the first stride than I am, more explosive.”
So is big brother suggesting his younger sister may be a better player? Well, maybe not.
“Well, I’m older, so maybe I’m better,” Mirco Mueller said with a grin. “Still, I have to keep up with her and keep moving forward.”
So far it’s been a challenging road at the Olympics for Alina Mueller and the Swiss. Switzerland is in Group A at the Olympics with the three other top-ranked countries in the world. The Swiss began round-robin play with a 5-0 loss to Canada, followed by a 9-0 loss to the United States. Then Wednesday the Swiss dropped a 4-3 heartbreaker to Finland in their final round-robin game.
However, the format had all four teams from Group A advancing to the knockout stages. So the Swiss moved on to Saturday’s quarterfinals, where they will play either Sweden or Russia, despite being winless.
Alina Mueller is wearing No. 25 for Switzerland, which happens to be the same number Mirco Mueller wears for the Silvertips, though Mirco Mueller said it was merely a coincidence.
Mirco Mueller got to watch his sister against the United States, and he also caught a part of the game against Finland. And he’s tried to remain in communication with Alina during her Olympic adventure.
“We’ve communicated a little bit,” Mirco Mueller said. “It’s kind of hard with the time difference, as well as her schedule and my schedule. But we’ve texted a little bit.”
While Alina Mueller is living her Olympic dream, Mirco Mueller may be just biding his time before joining his sister as an Olympian. Signs suggest both may be suiting up for Switzerland at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“I’d definitely like that,” Mirco Mueller said. “That would be something pretty cool, pretty special. But it’s still four years away, we don’t know what’s going to happen until then. But I’m definitely working toward that.”
Meanwhile, he’s happy just getting a chance to see his sister play on the world’s biggest stage.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.