Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Ian Johnson of the Wall Street Journal,
The host nation this year is under intense pressure to win gold. Canada invented the modern game of ice hockey, and people there feel they ought to win. Check out a Canadian newspaper or Web site these days, and it’s almost impossible to miss the discussion, or the immense pressure on Mr. Yzerman, the executive director of Team Canada. The media regularly track the players who are up and down this season, speculating whether it will influence Mr. Yzerman. Web sites have offered votes on who should be the starting goaltender, and podcasts are devoted to hashing and rehashing the possibilities.
“I don’t know if it’s pressure,” says Mr. Yzerman. “But a lot of people have a lot of opinions.”
The 44-year-old Mr. Yzerman retired in 2006 after 19 seasons as captain of the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings, helping to turn the club into a model of success. He was also a top scorer on Canada’s Olympic club in 2002, helping lead his country to its first gold medal in 50 years.
In such a talent-rich nation, Mr. Yzerman and his deputies have choices—almost too many. Does he go for the highest scoring players in hopes of outgunning opponents? Or does he take advantage of the fact that the series will be played in smaller North American rinks (as opposed to larger international-standard rinks) to fill his team with brawny players who can grind down opponents?
from Ansar Khan of Mlive,
Detroit Red Wings defenseman Andreas Lilja doesn’t blame Mikael Samuelsson, his best friend and former teammate, for ripping Swedish Olympic officials for excluding him from the team.
Samuelsson told Vancouver reporters: “Probably going to get in trouble for this, but they (Team Sweden officials) can go (expletive) themselves.’‘
Lilja liked his reaction.
“I think it’s kind of nice when someone says what they really think instead of saying, ‘OK, it was their decision, nothing I can do about it,’ ‘’ Lilja said. “Nice that people show emotions because he’s (ticked off). I don’t blame him.’’
Canadian hockey cheerleaders like to say this country is so overflowing with talent that it could send two teams to the Olympic tournament. That’s true, but would either win? Canada’s 12th forward may be superior to Russia’s 12th, but I’ll take Russia’s core ahead of Canada’s. We’ll see.
-William Houston of Truth & Rumours. More on the Olympics from Mr. Houston.
from Rachel Brady at CTVOlympics,
In the summer of 2001, Mike Babcock—then coach of the AHL’s Cincinnati Ducks—called Hockey Canada to ask if he could come watch the men’s Olympic hockey camp in Calgary prior to the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. He wanted to learn from the best coaches and players and take a few notes.
He had already acted as coach of Canada’s World Junior team, so Hockey Canada was happy to let the coach attend. A young coach trying to make it to the NHL, he was doing anything he could to gain an edge in the hockey world.
Fast-forward to 2009, and Babcock is now one of the game’s most accomplished coaches. The Detroit Red Wings coach will soon take the bench behind Canada’s 2010 Olympic team. Yet the Stanley Cup winning coach still calls himself a life-long learner. He has rarely missed an opportunity to benefit from his encounters with people, in hockey or otherwise.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
The most fascinating thing coming out of Russia’s 2010 Olympic team announcement on Christmas Day, at least to me, was the comment from coach Vyacheslav Bykov, who said he might change players between now and the opener in mid-February if their performance level dropped.
“I wouldn’t guarantee a place on the Olympic team to anyone,” Bykov was quoted as saying. “If my players can’t perform up to the standards playing for their respective clubs, then how can I rely on them in Vancouver?”
That caught many people around the hockey world off guard. It was assumed by most people that only injury replacements were allowed between a country’s roster announcement this week and the Olympic opener. But that is apparently not the case, depending on whom you believe. An International Ice Hockey Federation spokesman told ESPN.com on Saturday that rosters announced this week can be changed by the federations up until they are made official on the eve of the Olympic hockey tournament.
from John Marchesan at CTVOlympics,
Sweden will go with a mostly veteran lineup as it attempts to defend the gold medal it won four years ago in Turin.
Coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson has selected 13 members from the 2006 gold medal winning team led by Niklas Lidstrom who will anchor a veteran-laden defence which includes five first-time Olympians - Tobias Enstrom, Magnus Johansson, Douglas Murray, Johnny Oduya and Henrik Tallinder.
Lidstrom, who will captain the team, is among four players who will be making their fourth Olympic appearance with Sweden. He is joined by fellow defenseman Mattias Ohlund and forwards Daniel Alfredsson and Peter Forsberg.
Forsberg, whose foot and injury problems have been well documented, has been attempting a comeback in Sweden this year. While he has been a member of the last two gold medal winning teams for Sweden, his selection will be seen as a gamble.
from Chris Stevenson of the Ottawa Sun,
Call Steve Yzerman during the day over the last three months and you will likely find him in his car, or a rental car, either driving to or from an airport or a rink.
“He’s been all over the place,” said Bowman, now a senior adviser with the Chicago Blackhawks and an Yzerman confidante during Yzerman’s information-gathering process. “I was in Chicago Friday and he had driven in from Detroit and he was driving back after the game. He has done his homework.”
Yzerman has watched at least portions of more than 100 games and, it seems, talked to almost as many people in culling the information he will need to select the players he will announce as the members of Team Canada Wednesday.
Senators general manager Bryan Murray, whose career path crossed Yzerman’s when Murray was coach and general manager in Detroit in the early 1990s, ran into Yzerman in the airport in Detroit.
“He’s been really diligent. I met him at the airport in Detroit and he asked about players and the team selection process. He really paid attention,” said Murray. “He wants to be good. Guys like that, who want to be good, they will be good.”
from Allen Abel at the Vancouver Sun,
It is 30 years - exactly half my lifetime - since my first visit to Moscow as an innocent, ignorant sportswriter covering one of Alan Eagleson’s Teams Canada for The Globe and Mail. The Canadian entry in the 1979 World Championships was not one of our most successful, though when I look at the roster now, there were some supremely talented men on the squad: Marcel Dionne, Garry Unger, Bobby Smith, Wayne Babych, Ryan Walter, Guy Charron, Jim Rutherford in goal.
Agglomerated a few hours before the tournament started from teams that missed the NHL playoffs, they finished fourth here and were slathered by the Soviets 9-2, in the heyday of the Mikhailov-Kharlamov-Petrov line with Tretiak in nets. These days, I could interview those guys one on one, as long as we talked about fish.
But, back then, the hockey was secondary to the Cold War suspense and surreality. Team Canada was entombed in a hotel a block from Red Square with doughy matrons blockading the corridors and glum prostitutes at every table in the dining hall.
I remember being shunned in shops, doors slammed shut in half-filled restaurants, empty shelves, barren faces, drunken heroes wearing their Great Patriotic War medals on the Metro, menus on which every dish save fleshless chicken Tabaka was crossed out.
Russia’s hockey coach Vyacheslav Bykov has announced his choice for the upcoming Vancouver Olympics, with stars like Aleksandr Ovechkin, Evgeny Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk on the list.
And the Russian Coach says the Russians can beat the Canadians…
from Lesley Visser of CBS Sports,
Did you see the pictures of skating at Fenway Park? May your heart be light. It was fantastic, Bobby Orr and Terry O’Reilly gliding past the area Dustin Pedroia usually patrols. And on Jan. 1, when the Bruins play the Flyers at Fenway, the U.S. Olympic Hockey team will be announced.
“We will be young, and Canada, with enormous pressure on Sidney Crosby, will be gunning for the gold,” Mike Eruzione said of the brilliant Canadian center who plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
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.
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