Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Mark Purdy of the Mercury News,
Canada invented the game of hockey, as every citizen here is required to tell foreign visitors at least five times a day. And while the Winter Games have taken place once previously in Canada — Calgary 1988 — the players were amateurs and not NHL professionals, who didn’t appear in the Olympics until 1998.
In other words, this will be the first time an Olympic hockey gold medal will be decided by the world’s best hockey players on Canadian soil. And since Canada finished a disgraceful eighth at the last Winter Olympic hockey tournament in Torino four years ago, the home fans are in no mood for finishing second. As one international hockey official has joked, the country is “a nation of 35 million general managers.”
Another indication of hockey’s pecking order here: Every men’s tournament game will be played at the largest and nicest ice arena in town, Canada Hockey Place, home of the Vancouver Canucks NHL team. Usually at the Olympics, the biggest and best arena is reserved for figure skating, the glamour event of the games. This time, the figure skaters have been shunted off to the Pacific Coliseum — the smaller 42-year-old building where the Canucks played in the 1980s and ‘90s.
from Charles McGrath and Jeff Z. Klein of the New York Times,
...But the groupings suggested some surprising thinking on the part of the Russian coaching staff. Sergei Fedorov, Slava Kozlov and Alexander Radulov, who all play in the Kontinental Hockey League, were together, but Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk — the three best players on the team and potentially a devastating line — were not. Instead, Ovechkin was with Datsyuk and Alexander Semin, who is Ovechkin’s teammate on the Washington Capitals….
Talking about how the problem of getting the lines to click on short notice, Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames and Canada said: “The coaching staff talks to us, and they’ve already been thinking about the role they want each of us to play. They’ve put the lines together, and some of the guys have already played together.”
Ron Wilson, the United States coach, likened the process of putting together a team on one day’s notice to a riddle.
“It’s like a Rubik’s cube,” he said, speaking with reporters at Canada Hockey Place. “You just start moving it till you get a side with one color all the same.”
“The exciting thing about these Olympics is having them in Vancouver. It’s hockey, hockey all the time, and it’s a great atmosphere.”
-Teemu Selanne of Team Finland. More on Teemu, who is playing in his last Olympic games, from Mark Whicker of the OC Register.
from Craig Custance of The Sporting News,
“Coming here today and seeing all this,” said Zach Parise, nodding toward the swarm of media. “The nerves start to creep in.”
There’s only one way to remove those nerves.
“You almost just want to start the game and let the nerves relax a little bit,” he said.
After months of anticipation, they finally get that chance.
from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,
This time, with only three round robin games, it was assumed Brodeur and Luongo would split the first two games, but that Brodeur, almost as a courtesy, would start the opener. Instead, he gets the tougher opponent in Switzerland, with the really complicated choice being who starts next Sunday against the United States.
“No, I wasn’t surprised,” Brodeur told the Star. “I’m going to play the next game (against the Swiss). More of a challenge for the coaches will be who plays after that.”
Babcock didn’t really explain his choice, mumbling something about Luongo being a Vancouver Canuck, and something else about Brodeur having played so much this season – he’s appeared in 58 of New Jersey’s 61 games – that he might be able to use a couple of days off.
Maybe. More likely is that Brodeur is already slotted to get the game against the Americans and would face a four-day layoff if the games against Norway and the Swiss were flipped. But we’ll see.
The second surprise unveiled by Babcock on Monday was having Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins, a player who wasn’t even invited to the summer camp in Calgary, skating alongside centre Sidney Crosby and Rick Nash on what is expected to be Canada’s top line.
from Dan Rosen of NHL.com,
Even after his major knee operation in October, Johan Franzen had a gut feeling that he was going to be in Vancouver for the Olympics.
“I didn’t book a vacation trip,” he said Monday after Team Sweden’s practice.
Maybe not, but he also didn’t find out officially until 11 o’clock Sunday morning that he would be part of Team Sweden.
Franzen, who is four months removed from surgery for a torn ACL, is here because his teammate in Detroit, Tomas Holmstrom, can not be as his Olympics were derailed by nagging foot and knee injuries.
“I waited until the last day and I finally got the call,” Franzen said. “I wanted to believe it (that I would be in the Olympics).”
from the CP at CTVOlympics,
The 40-year-old forward appeared to be just as loose and relaxed as the players around him on the eve of the Olympic tournament. He was clearly enjoying himself on the ice during Monday’s practice at Canada Hockey Place and was cracking jokes afterwards.
“I’m just delighted to be around those guys and have fun,” said Fedorov. “If you want to be part of the group, you have to goof off too sometimes.”
Fedorov is five years older than anyone else on the Russian team. He’s back for his third Games and is painfully aware that his country hasn’t won Olympic gold since 1992, but doesn’t believe it’s much of a distraction for the young stars.
“I don’t think anybody on the team thinks about when we won last time Olympics and stuff because we’re having too much fun,” said Fedorov.
“I’m the happiest guy here, that’s for sure.”
“When it first happened it was one of the scariest things I’ve been through. And it was one of the hardest things I’ve done. The last week hasn’t been easy and I’m so relieved just to get on the ice with the guys again.”
Ryan Getzlaf of Team Canada. A bit more on Team Canad from Helene Elliott of the LA Times.
from Neil Campbell of the Globe and Mail at CTVOlympics,
Generations tend to mix and meld in international hockey these days and the proof comes Tuesday when the United States opens the men’s Olympic hockey tournament against Switzerland, with a top line that features Paul Stastny playing between Zach Parise and Patrick Kane.
And if the first two surnames sound familiar, well, there is an explanation for that. Parise’s father, J.P., played for Canada in the seminal 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union. Stastny’s father, Peter, played for Czechoslovakia during the 1980 Olympics on the team that lost early to the Americans during their magical Miracle on Ice run.
That two players - one of Slovak heritage, one of Canadian - now play for the Americans is an indication how bloodlines matter more in hockey than in almost any other sport. It also points to an explosive growth in the game below the 49th parallel, to the point where the American team, despite its loud insistences to the contrary, could pose a significant threat in the 2010 Olympic competition.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
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