2014 Winter Olympics

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Four-time Stanley Cup winner Chris Kunitz announces retirement

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Chris Kunitz announced his retirement on Tuesday after a 1,022-game NHL career that saw him win four Stanley Cups and Olympic gold in 2014. He finishes with 268 goals and 619 points

In retirement, the 39-year-old Kunitz will join the Chicago Blackhawks hockey operations department as a player development adviser role which will see him helping the the organization’s coaching staffs at both the NHL and AHL levels.

Kunitz released a statement via the Blackhawks:

“I feel very fortunate to have been a part of four amazing organizations over the last 15 years. First and foremost, I’d like to sincerely thank the Anaheim Ducks, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Chicago Blackhawks. Every one of these organizations was the ultimate example, not only to me, but to my children, on what true professionalism should be.

Secondly, I’d like to thank the owners, coaches, trainers, management. Your love for the game, the team and the community was exemplified daily. I am very fortunate to have worked with every one of you.

Finally, to my teammates, thank you for everything. As a young player you taught me to give my very best. Your leadership helped mold me into the player I knew I could be. I was given the opportunity to play with the very best teams and the very best players and I’m grateful for the laughs and the friendships that we shared together. Thank you for making my childhood dream come true.”

Undrafted out of Ferris State, Kunitz signed as a free agent with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003 and four years later won his first Cup. In 2009, he was dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009 where he would capture his second championship in three seasons. It was with the Penguins where he would spend most of his career playing 569 games and recording 388 points. The 2013-14 season would be his most productive with 35 goals and 68 points, both career highs. That success would see him be named to Canada’s Olympic team where they would win gold in Sochi.

The titles would continue a few years later when the Penguins won back-to-back Cups in 2016 and 2017. It was Kunitz’s goal in overtime of Game 7 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Final against the Ottawa Senators that would send Pittsburgh to another Cup Final.

That goal would be his last with the Penguins. Following the 2016-17 season, Kunitz moved on to the Tampa Bay Lightning and then joined up with the Blackhawks this past season.

“Chris had an outstanding professional career,” said Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton. “His four Stanley Cups and Olympic gold medal speak for themselves. While coaching him last year, I recognized what an asset he would be for our staff and the organization. I’m very pleased to have him a part of our coaching group and, also, use him as a development resource for our young players in Rockford.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Larionov on Olympics: ‘Hockey is the main event’

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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.

Selanne ‘expecting some surprises’ during Olympic tournament

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.”

Sakic says Olympics more helpful for players than vacation

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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.

Sobotka injury may open door for Hudler on Czech roster

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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.