How important are the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi to Russian athletes like Alex Ovechkin?
The short answer is, extremely important.
Per the Associated Press, here’s the longer answer, courtesy Ovechkin: “Olympics are probably the most important thing for Russians than any other athletes in the whole world. And since I was a little kid and since everybody was a little kid, their dream was playing in Olympic games, especially if we have a chance to represent our country in Sochi in Russia, it’s unbelievable and it’s going to a great thing. That’s what I mean it’s a strength. I don’t think somebody (is) going to (think) their mission is done to be just on Olympic team. Our mission is to try to win gold medal.”
The last time the Russians won hockey gold at the Olympics was 1992, when they competed as the Unified Team following the break-up of the Soviet Union. That was before NHLers started competing in the Games, which first occurred in 1998.
In 2010, the Russians were dominated 7-3 in the quarterfinals by the host Canadians, who went on to win gold.
While it’s the Russians who will be on home ice in 2014 — and, clearly, Ovechkin believes that will give his country an advantage — there remain questions about the overall talent level of the roster.
Russia plays its first game of the tournament on Feb. 13 versus Slovenia.