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On conflicted Olympic loyalties

If you'll pardon the "thought experiment," I'm trying to shake off rust, and figured that this would be an interesting topic for discussion:

Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk is of course playing for Russia on Thursday, and Team Canada's Wings managerial/coaching contingent is expressing its concern...

From my little corner of the world, aside from hoping to be able to exhaust myself following the Wings' ten Olympians ASAP, I find that a hockey fan's Olympic experience--at least when your team's sending representatives to multiple teams--tends to depend on the ways in which fans follow the game. What follows are examples of two ends of the hockey fan spectrum:

If you're a fan that ultimately cheers for the players' names on the back of the jersey, if you follow "your team's" former players wherever they go, and go so far as to don your team's rivals' jerseys because your players matter most, the Olympics are an intriguing and exciting means by which to find new teams to cheer for because you want your players to do well.

If you're a fan that ultimately finds himself or herself more loyal to that logo on the front of your team's jersey than you do the individual players, if you find yourself particularly pickily choosing your apparel and merchandise based upon perceived team-first loyalty or a player's longevity with your team, and you're more than willing to cut ties with a favorite player because they simply don't wear your team's jersey...

The divided loyalties, media jousting and player-on-your-team-vs-player-representing-your-nationality situation can become incredibly uncomfortable, and you may find yourself both cheering for whichever team contains the most representatives from your team while realizing that, in your heart of hearts, you'll be glad when all of this business is over.

Most of us fall in between these "types," which is a good thing--we tend to find a good balance between rooting for that player who you can't help but root for regardless of where he's playing and not falling in love with everybody that dons your team's "sweater" because you know some of 'em won't stick around--but I've at least found that the fifth Olympics in which "my Wings" and my favorite players are taking part yields a conflicted viewing experience.

In the end, I'm a "team"-type fan, however, and as such, I tend to pick the most-Wings-represented team and stick with 'em. When multiple Wings do battle, I really do cringe, and as fascinating as it is to watch dear friends become spirited opponents for two weeks, there's a part of me that enjoys watching the games and another that just wants to see everybody wearing jerseys with winged wheels on the front instead.

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Gary A$$ SUCK !!'s avatar

Go Sweden..Heja Sverige.!!!! and Go team USA.  wink

Posted by Gary A$$ SUCK !! from Fort Myers, Florida on 02/12/14 at 01:59 AM ET


I’m hoping for a Russian victory over Sweden for gold, Team USA getting bronze. There was a great article from a Canadian someone (SBNation maybe?) about winning gold in Vancouver and how they thought every country should get to experience gold in “their” sport. Just for the fans. I like that, but I want it for Datsyuk as well. Probably his last chance at a major win unless the Wings D really steps it up in the next few years.

Posted by psionedge on 02/12/14 at 02:43 AM ET


Also, a big part of Olympic fervor is patriotism.  There’s not a ton to be super-thrilled about right now around these parts, so screaming ‘USA!’ at the tv isn’t top of mind for a bunch of folks.

they thought every country should get to experience gold in “their” sport. Just for the fans.

Well, the USA’s had about four gajillion walkovers in basketball, so the shine’s off that particular apple, at least for those who care about that sport.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 02/12/14 at 07:29 AM ET

Chet's avatar

Silly. It’s Team USA. If they don’t make the medal games I’ll choose (Sweden, the favorite anyway) based on players I like.

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 02/12/14 at 07:31 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

I didn’t even hit the patriotism issue because I wanted to separate that out from the “loyalty” issue, but I can certainly tell you that patriotic leanings are why the players have absolutely no problem whatsoever lining up with their teammates one moment and then fiercely combating each other the next.

For the players—especially given that so few players play for one team for their entire careers and given that we’re long removed from the Ted Lindsay days of hating your opponents off as well as on the ice—it’s easier to shift your loyalties between team and country than it might have been in the past, and the fact that the NHL’s taking part in its fifth Olympics gives the players both context and something of a protocol for when it’s okay to swap allegiances and start trying to do everything necessary to prevent their best pals from winning games.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 02/12/14 at 08:34 AM ET

Nathan's avatar

Obviously, rooting for Team USA first. But the Red Win…errr…Sweden is my second choice if the US falters.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 02/12/14 at 10:05 AM ET

MoreShoot's avatar

I’m freakin’ out: Mike Milbury just said on NBC that the Swedes will win.

Posted by MoreShoot on 02/12/14 at 10:08 AM ET


I root for the best hockey to be played regardless of nationality. I pick a team to root for based on who’s playing each game.

I hated those American teams led by Chelios, Modano, Tkachuk, Roenick—a bunch of DBs.  By the end of the last tournament, with all of those furniture-smashers gone, I found myself admiring the American team for the first time since 1980 because they were a hard-working, hard-hitting, FAST bunch led by the quiet and humble Rafalski—very much in contrary to their predecessors.  I am eager to see whether this group of Americans plays the same way or reverts to its spoiled brat past after finding some success.

I also root for the underdog.  So Finland, the Czechs, Slovaks, even Norway, Latvia and Belarus have held my rooting interest since Unified Team members went their separate ways.  If and when Russia ever adopts that attitude and plays a team game like the smaller countries do and the way it used to when it was the CCCP, I’ll be back on board.

I like Canada and always have, but I think it’s funny when they lose due to all the hysteria it causes up north.  Like the Hasek/Czech game where Shanny cried, that was awesome.  Same with Sweden.  I like the way they play; I like most of their players, but I can’t get fully behind them.  That Belarus game, followed by the mugshots with pricetag underneath printed in the national newspaper, was priceless.

Posted by jkm2011 on 02/12/14 at 10:17 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

JKM, for once you and I may actually be on the same page, and I smile while saying that.

I found myself feeling like a very conflicted American when the Chelios/Roenick/Modano/Tkachuk/Hatcher USA teams were playing in the Olympics, and it’s not easy for me to cheer for Patrick Kane, Ryan Kesler or Ryan Suter these days…

And it’s hard for me to not root for Damien Brunner’s Swiss team or the Slovaks because they really are underdogs in a big way.

Michiganders tend to have a split perspective regarding Canadian Olympians. Some of us root for the “country next door” whenever they’re not playing the Americans, and some Michiganders feel like the Canadians are the Americans’ biggest rival, a la Michigan vs. Michigan State. I’m in the former category but I’d say it’s an even split between the camps.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 02/12/14 at 10:42 AM ET

MoreShoot's avatar

I’ve frankly been worn down by the ‘It’s our game’ BS from Canada.  I like many many Canadian players, but I’m more into underdogs as a principle.

Posted by MoreShoot on 02/12/14 at 10:46 AM ET

henrymalredo's avatar

I’ll always root for Team USA to win the Gold, regardless of how many Wings are or are not on the team.  If Team USA doesn’t make it, then I’ll choose my allegiances based on what team has my favorite Wings.  And yeah, as an American hockey fan who doesn’t care to be told by Canadians that we can’t ever truly appreciate hockey like they do, I always smile a little when Canada loses, though my preference is to see Team USA oust them in the gold medal game.

Posted by henrymalredo from Lansing on 02/12/14 at 10:58 AM ET

Tracy from T-Town Hockey 's avatar

Team USA for me! Then probably Sweeden just because they are basically the Red Wings + a Red Wing’s brother + a few other NHLers.  Other then that, I like to root for the underdogs.  The Czechs are probably my third team.  Looking forward to watching good games all around.  As for Canada, I’m of the group that doesn’t want them to medal, and I’m only an hour away from them.  Sorry Mike!

Posted by Tracy from T-Town Hockey on 02/12/14 at 12:57 PM ET

Tracy from T-Town Hockey 's avatar

It will be interesting to see if Sweden keeps Z and Nyquist together as well as Kronner and Ericsson.

Posted by Tracy from T-Town Hockey on 02/12/14 at 01:19 PM ET


I am rooting for team Sweden and team Slovakia because of some of the individual players I like. I am also hoping for team USA to win gold out of patriotism I guess. I do find myself wishing that the male hockey teams would also be from college players like the women’s team is, and like they used to be.

Posted by griffinsfan on 02/13/14 at 08:36 AM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.