Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,
But if the NHL pulls out, the flavour and competitive nature of the tournament will be enormously different in Sochi when it returns – correctly – to the larger international ice surface. With no NHLers, the U.S. will have to go back to using college kids, Canada’s team will look like a Spengler Cup entrant again and the NHL will be handing over the tournament marquee to the KHL, which already will have 60 or more players in the Vancouver tournament.
Which league will look big-league then? How will the NHL gain by retreating into self-imposed Olympic exile while countries like Latvia and Germany suddenly find themselves able to compete with the top North American countries, home to the NHL?
This, to be fair, shapes up to be a brilliant hockey tournament, one without a clear favourite. There’s Canada with home-ice advantage, the Swedes as defending champs and the Russians holding bragging rights from back-to-back world titles. The U.S. will be sentimental favourites due to Brian Burke’s personal ordeal and everybody seems to forget Finland won silver four years ago.
But without the NHL, there might be even more intrigue, more of a sense of the unknown.
Better than anything Bettman’s league can ever serve up in the final two weeks of February, for sure.
Tomas Holmstrom left the Wings game tonight. His knee is still bothering him.
Does Team Sweden make a switch and select Johan Franzen and sit Holmstrom for the Olympic Games?
via RIA Novosti,
“We are pleased to be predicted for the final, but there are many other candidates,” Vladislav Tretyak said at a news conference in Russia House adding that many other teams have equal chances of reaching the final, including the United States, Finland and Sweden.
Russia’s legendary hockey goalie Tretyak, a three-time Olympic champion and 10-time world champion, said the Russian players are currently seriously focusing on the first game against Latvia, as there are no weak opponents at the Olympics.
“The first game is always exciting no matter who you play against. The boys are set for a difficult game. There are no weak opponents and there will be a lot of surprises,” he said.
The Russian 2010 national Olympic team, which includes 14 players from the National Hockey League (NHL) and nine from the Continental Hockey League (KHL), will play its first game of the tournament against Latvia on February 16.
The Russian squad is led again by Coach Vyacheslav Bykov, who is already being talked of as a coaching great.
from Greg Wyshynski of PuckDaddy,
Slava Malamud of Sport-Express asked a provocative question about how Russia has supplanted Canada as the top team in international play over the last few world championships, and how this may be the last chance for Canada’s NHL stars to win gold. How enormous is that pressure right now?
Yzerman, getting closer to the microphone, offered a terse response:
“Honestly, do you think they’ll have a parade in Moscow if the Russians go in with the silver medal? They won’t.”
Yzerman continued: “The expectation in Russia is gold. The expectation in Sweden is gold. Whether they admit it or not, the USA is in this to win a gold medal. All of us are playing to win the tournament, and every team that doesn’t will be disappointed. That’s how it is for all our players that play in the NHL every year. If you don’t win, it hasn’t been successful.
“We just don’t treat it [the way the question was stated]. You point out Russians have won the last two championships. They’re bringing some of the top forwards in the world [here]. They’re the No. 1 ranked team in the world. They’re the favorite coming into this tournament.”
from Helene Elliott of the LA Times,
To march with Team USA on Friday in the opening ceremony, Kings defenseman Jack Johnson awoke at 5 a.m. on a day between games, jumped on a charter flight from LAX to Bellingham, Wash., and hired a car and driver for the 50-mile trip to Vancouver.
Johnson wouldn’t say what he paid to charter the six-seat plane for himself, his parents and his little brother. To him, the experience is priceless.
“I had to take extreme measures to get here, but it was worth every bit of it,” said Johnson, the lone NHL player in the procession.
from Shawn P. Roarke of NHL.com,
Contrary to the hype, Jaromir Jagr says he is no longer a superstar.
“No, I don’t feel like that,” Jagr said Friday afternoon when asked if he was still the go-to guy on the Czech Republic team. “The media back home might think that, but I don’t feel like that. It’s important how I feel.”
Jagr has been away from the National Hockey League for two years, departing the New York Rangers and taking his electrifying skill and megawatt personality to Omsk in the Kontinental Hockey League. For the past 21 months, he has been plying his trade in Omsk, Russia, far from the prying eyes of North American hockey fans and media members.
Much has clearly changed during that period. Jagr turns 38 early next week and is now passed over when talk now rages about the best hockey players in the world. It is more than just out of sight, out of mind: Jagr himself doesn’t feel like he should be in that discussion.
“I’m pretty thrilled to be here and be able to be part of this team. It’s been a little rocky journey the last couple of years. I’m not 100 per cent sure if I’m going to be great in this tournament or not, but I’m just going to go out and do my best. If I get placed on the third or fourth line it doesn’t matter.
“As long as I’m here, I’m going to do the best for my team and the country.’‘
-Team Sweden’s Peter Forsberg. More on Forsberg and Team Sweden from Chris Johnston of the CP at CTVOlympics.
via Curtis Zupke of Ducks Blog,
Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf skated at Ducks practice Friday but came off the ice after about 25 minutes at Pengrowth Saddledome, Register beat writer Eric Stephens reports.
Getzlaf went through the line rushes but left to get treatment before the team began doing drills.
Olympic trade freeze now in place, but NHL games continue through Sunday night.
KK will be around, no vacation plans until late July or August and we will be providing all your hockey talk from both the NHL and the Olympic games in Vancouver.
Many storylines coming out of Vancouver and it should be great entertainment for all of us who follow the game.
Now, time to clean up my computer desk and provide you with all the hockey news.
from John Shannon of Sportsnet,
• In addition to the Maple Leafs, Oilers and Hurricanes, some teams will look at the Olympic break to decide if they are buyers or sellers at the deadline on the first Wednesday in March. One manager told me the magic number is 10. That’s 10 points out of 8th spot. And when you consider that means that a team that is 10 down would probably have to go 15-5 in its last 20 games to have a chance. Do the math, by Valentines Day the list of teams down by double digits might be prove to make the trade deadline day a wild day indeed.
• Interesting to note that replacement players for Olympic teams can only happened based on a list that was given last year to WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency). The list has to be very extensive, in order to cover any issue. It is so large, I’m told, the Canadian list includes Guy Lafleur. You also have to wonder, with all the public funding that the three levels of government are putting into the Games, why the list isn’t made public… ever!
more hockey notes…
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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