Ice Hockey Quarter Final - Day 13 - Russia v Canada

Canada’s Toews: ‘The Russians have a little more pressure’


Four years ago, it was the Canadian hockey team dealing with the expectation and pressure of an entire nation on its shoulder.

Now, with the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, the Russian hockey team is in a similar situation, although one could argue it’s even more magnified for the host squad this time around.

Canadian forward Jonathan Toews, who transformed into a pivotal member of Canada’s gold-medal team in Vancouver, has no problem recalling the pressures of playing on home ice in the Olympics and the anxious energy that can provide.

“Oh, yeah. I remember the first practice, pucks were flying off my stick,” Toews told Bruce Arthur of’s 2014 Winter Olympics coverage. “I was nervous. I was excited. It was a pretty amazing thing to be there, at that age and have that chance.

“The Russians have a little more pressure, this time. I’d say that pressure’s still on us, but you don’t feel it as much. You don’t see everything on TV, you don’t have trouble going to sleep at night because you can hear Vancouver just buzzing all night. So we know that’s there, but it’s easier to block it out and just focus on hockey, because you’re not experiencing it firsthand.”

The Russians are certainly aware of the expectations on them, especially after losing in the quarter-final to Canada in the 2010 Games. They’ve had four years to think about it; for that memory to linger.

“I think our players, they have good experience,” said Russia’s head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov. “I don’t think they will feel bad, I mean will feel big pressure. They’re strong players, good players. I think they’re OK.”

They’re also very talented players, capable of changing the complexion of a game with their electrifying style. Think about it: A line consisting of Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin.

But there are also some injury issues, especially with Pavel Datsyuk, who has played twice for the Detroit Red Wings since the Winter Classic.

“He’s probably been preparing for this tournament for five or six years when it was announced that it was coming to Russia,” Red Wings’ general manager Ken Holland said recently of Datsyuk. “I’m sure if he couldn’t play, he won’t play.

“Is he 100 percent? Probably not, but there are probably other players in this tournament who aren’t 100 percent.”

Report: Kings, Richards nearing settlement

Mike Richards
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The Los Angeles Kings and Mike Richards may be nearing a settlement in their dispute over Richards’ terminated contract, TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting.

You can read the report for all the details, but we’re sure curious about this part:

If a settlement is reached, there’s no word yet on what salary cap penalties the Kings would still face. There’s bound to be something, but not likely as onerous as the full value of Richards’ contract, which carries with it a cap hit of $5.75 million. If there’s a settlement, Richards would undoubtedly become a free agent though there’s no telling at this point what monies he would be entitled to from the Kings in a settlement.

The issue here is precedent, and what this case could set. The NHL and NHLPA can’t allow teams to escape onerous contracts through a back door, and many are adamant that that’s what the Kings were attempting to do in Richards’ case.

Bettman to players: Don’t screw up ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ with drugs

Gary Bettman
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The NHL wants to take an educational approach — not a punitive one — to deter its players from using illicit drugs like cocaine.

“My interest is not to go around punishing people,” Bettman told Sportsnet today.

“My interest is getting players to understand the consequences of doing something that could jeopardize this great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ve been given, to play in the NHL.”

While some players have expressed surprise at hearing that cocaine use is growing, the anecdotal evidence of substance abuse has been very much in the news, from Jarret Stoll‘s arrest to Mike Richards’ arrest to, more recently, Zack Kassian‘s placement in the NHL/NHLPA’s treatment program.

“We don’t have the unilateral right to do things here. We need the consent of the Players’ Association,” Bettman said. “It’s not about punishment. It’s about making sure we get it to stop.”

Related: Cocaine in the NHL: A concern, but not a crisis?