We’re focused on hockey here, but the Winter Olympics have more than just that going on for it. With the number of other big sports and events, sometimes we get a little caught up in our own thing, but Hockey Hall of Famer and Russian legend Igor Larionov says it begins and ends with hockey in Sochi.
In an interview with SophieCo in Russia, Larionov says the rest of the events in the Olympics can’t hold a candle to ice hockey.
“I mean, the hockey is the main event – I don’t care what anybody says about figure skating and all in that respect, and other sports, but hockey – because you got so many superstars coming to play and they play against each other, so it’s not every time you can see top teams from around the world playing. It’s like a World Cup of soccer. But this is NHL players coming and playing especially at Olympics, and for the players to come and play and to be proud for their country, so I think it’s kind of historic event for the players because of that.”
The Olympics always create stars in other sports. Such is the case in figure skating, bobsled, and skiing, but the superstars come into hockey prepackaged.
Fans of other sports might call Larionov biased since he comes from, and is a player agent in, hockey but it’s not unlike NBA talent in basketball in the Summer Olympics.
That said, having NHL players in Olympic hockey in Russia turns the players into rock stars of sorts given how hockey-mad the country is. That kind of status causes those involved in some of those other sports, as Puck Daddy shares, to sound off in a fit of jealousy.
Teemu Selanne is participating in his sixth Olympic Games for Finland and while they haven’t won gold in that time, it’s not altering the experience of being in Sochi for the Anaheim Ducks’ future Hall of Famer.
“Obviously it means a lot, and every Olympics is a new story and a new adventure,” Selanne said. “Again, I’m very happy and thankful to be here. I’m very excited. Doesn’t matter if it’s the first or sixth time, it’s going to be very special, and I expect that it’s going to be another great experience.”
Selanne has 37 points in 31 career games at the Olympics. Finland had their best shot at gold in 2006 in Torino when they lost in the gold medal game to rival Sweden. That year, he had six goals and 11 points in eight games.
As for the Finns expectations going into this year’s tournament, he is expecting the unexpected.
“Obviously everybody has their own dreams, but our dreams are to be in the final, also,” Selanne said. “You never know. It’s a big ice surface, and 10 days, and whoever is going to be hot in the right time is going to have success. I’m expecting that there are going to be some surprises in this tournament, too. Hopefully I’m right.”
With a number of NHL players soon headed to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics, many others are getting set for a two-week vacation in the middle of the season.
You would imagine getting time to rest and heal up before the run for the playoffs would be a good thing. Colorado Avalanche executive vice president of hockey operations, and former Team Canada member, Joe Sakic disagrees as he shares with Adrian Dater of The Denver Post.
“It’s better to play,” Sakic said. “I think it keeps you sharper, and the level of hockey you’re playing that whole time, that can make you better.”
It’s tough to disagree with a guy who is in the Hockey Hall of Fame and won the gold medal in 2002 in Salt Lake City. Ideally getting time off would seem like a helpful thing, but he’s right about staying sharp.
Perhaps teams loaded with Olympians will be set to go on a tear following the Sochi games. That would be good news for teams like the Detroit Red Wings fighting to get into the postseason.
Vladimir Sobotka landed on injured reserve for the St. Louis Blues with a leg injury that will knock him out of the Olympics. That opens the door for another player to join the Czech Republic roster and it could be Calgary’s Jiri Hudler.
Olympic coach Alois Hadamczik told TV NOVA in the Czech Republic (via Roman Jedlicki) that Hudler may be the leading candidate to replace Sobotka on the Czech roster.
Yes, Capitals forward Martin Erat, he of zero goals in 47 games this season, could also get the call. As for the other players mentioned, here’s what their story is:
Tomas Rolinek — 33-year-old currently with Praha in the Czech league and was on the 2010 Olympic team.
Jan Kovar — 23-year-old forward currently with Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL and has 66 points in 50 games.
Zbynek Irgl — 33-year-old forward with Dinamo Minsk in the KHL. He has 18 points in 46 games.
Interesting choices abound, but Hudler’s omission from the roster in the first place was a surprise. He would seem like the logical choice, but Rolinek could be the “safe” selection for the Czechs.
If the NHL pulls its players out of the 2014 Winter Olympics because of security concerns, Hockey Canada will be left scrambling.
Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson said there is no “Plan B” if violence causes the NHL to keep the players in North America as Joshua Clipperton of The Canadian Press shares.
“Our contingency plan would be everyone around this room today,” he said while speaking to reporters at Rogers Arena. “We have none.”
Not having a backup plan for how to handle Olympic hockey can be excused here since, if there are problems that would force athletes to stay away, there would be much larger concerns to deal with. Winning gold in hockey (or any sport) doesn’t compare to maintaining safety.
The possibility of violence causing a disruption of the games in Sochi, Russia is a hot topic of late. The NHL reportedly has a “contingency plan” if things take a turn for the worse and some players are having their families stay away from Russia to keep them safe.
The Olympic hockey tournament begins February 12.