SOCHI, Russia — You’ve probably heard the term “mixed zone” a few times since the Winter Olympics started. If you weren’t sure what a mixed zone was, well, that there is a mixed zone. It’s basically a media gauntlet that athletes have to pass through as soon as they’re finished their games, performances, runs, or whatever.
For NHLers, it’s a notably different process than what they’re used to in North America, where they’re able to go to the dressing room and briefly collect their thoughts before meeting with reporters. They don’t get that brief luxury in the Olympics.
In 2010, Alex Ovechkin received a good deal of criticism for blowing through the mixed zone at the Vancouver Games. Which is partly why we mention this, given he’s been called the face of the Sochi Games. Will he act differently in his home country?
Yesterday, 15-year-old Swiss women’s hockey player Alina Muller was in tears as she walked through the mixed zone following a 5-0 loss to Canada. A Swiss reporter tried to call her over, and to her credit she walked over to him, but when he saw she was crying, he let her go. I don’t expect to see any NHLers in tears like that, and I’m not sure any of them are going to pull a Richard Sherman either, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be emotional, prone to saying (or doing) emotional things.
Remember, at some point in these Games, Ovechkin is going to come off the ice as one of two things — a gold-medal winner, or…not.
The gauntlet will be waiting.