|P Ferguson Jenkins||1974-75, 1978-81||Chatham, Ont.|
|P Reggie Cleveland||1978||Swift Current, Sask.|
|OF Rick Lisi||1981||Halifax, N.S.|
|P Steve Wilson||1988||Victoria, B.C.|
|OF Rob Ducey||1993-94||Toronto|
|P Jeff Zimmerman||1999-2001||Kelowana, B.C.|
|P Aaron Myette||2001-02||New Westminister, B.C.|
|OF Matt Stairs||2006||Saint John, N.B.|
|P Eric Gagne||2007||Montreal|
"I've been watching pretty much every game," Harden said Friday morning in the Rangers clubhouse. "It's going to be tough, though, because the gold-medal game is Sunday at noon. I have to be here. Hopefully, I can watch it in the clubhouse."Doesn't Canada still have to get past Slovakia? "Yeah, that's definitely a big game, but we got past the Russians pretty easily," Harden said. "They were a pretty strong team. I like what Canada did against Russia. It would be nice to get a rematch against the States. That would be a pretty good game." Harden was born in Victoria, British Columbia, and has lived in Calgary and Vancouver. He was in Calgary when they held the Winter Olympics in 1988 and the following year when the Flames won the Stanley Cup. "I used to go to bed at night listening to Flames games," Harden said. Harden was a defenseman, so his favorite player was Al MacInnis, the former Flame who is now in the Hall of Fame. He also loved Tie Domi, a forward who was known as an relentless enforcer and racked up some serious time in the penalty box. "He was a little guy," Harden said, "He was tough ... a fighter. Anytime I play one of those hockey video games, I take him and hit somebody." Harden played baseball and hockey growing up. At 15, he chose to concentrate on baseball. But playing hockey helped him succeed at baseball and on the mound.
"When I take the mound, I just have the mentality of not backing down," Harden said. "Being aggressive and challenging hitters, it's something I learned from hockey. I'm not backing down, I'm coming at you."He also discovered that ice skating is a pretty good way of keeping his legs in shape. "I still love getting out on the ice and skating," Harden said. "It's one of the best workouts. Even when I was younger and a lot smaller, I was a center fielder because I could run and was fast. As a pitcher pushing off the mound with power, that's really where it started from. Playing hockey really helped me building up strength for baseball." So what happened with hockey? "I basically played until I had to make a decision," Harden said. "Doing both sports was taking up time. I didn't do any offseason training in either sport. I stopped playing hockey to do weight training for baseball and I really noticed the results. "I guess baseball was more fun at the time and I was a little better at baseball. I definitely miss hockey, but I didn't miss it at the time because I was focused on baseball." Harden didn't make a bad decision. He enters his eighth Major League season with a career record of 50-29 with a 3.39 ERA in 127 starts and eight career relief appearances. He will most likely be the Rangers' Opening Day pitcher if all goes well this spring. But he is more proof that the passion for hockey runs deep in Canada.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.