A dozen countries, hockey clubs, will once again joust at the world stage in search for gold. In 2010, it was Sidney Crosby and his Canadian lads who leaped into world supremacy in what the Canadians call “our game”. Those winter games were on Canadian soil, contrary to 2014’s hostess Russia.
A joint agreement between the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association will once again sanction the rights for NHLers to participate in the Winter Olympics. Yet as of late, tense NHLers are questioning their safety, arguably so, after sadistic violence in the country. Commissioner Gary Bettman is still slated to send his players off to Russia, but understands player safety is a primary issue.
The Czech Republic and Sweden will kick off the Ice Hockey games on Feb. 12, as Sochi2014.com’s schedule entails. Both organizations are featured in the “Group C” bracket. The following teams will square up in Group C: Czech Republic, Latvia, Switzerland, and Sweden. Team Sweden looks to shepherd the weakest division in the tournament, with names like Henrik Lundqvist, Jonas Gustavsson, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg, and Gabriel Landeskog (roster utilized from Sochi2014.com). The list goes on for Team Sweden, who will have to joust will rival Czech Republic for group supremacy. The Czechs themselves are bestowed with rich NHL talent, only theirs is rather, well, older NHL talent. The teams average age is the ripe one of 31.
Group A is a talented one. The group consists of the following: Russia, Slovenia, Slovakia, and the United States. The U.S., Russia, and Slovakia will most definitely be at a chess match for control of this division. Russia’s roster includes NHLers like Alexander Ovechkin, Yevgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Alexander Syomin, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Vladimir Tarasenko. Slovakia will be led by the likes of Zedeno Chara, Marian Gaborik, Michal Handzus, and Marian Hossa.
On the final day of January, USA Hockey named their captain. The 5′ 11′, 29-year-old left winger from the Minnesota Wild will look to lead his skill crafted bunch to anther gold medal game in Sochi. The Americans will be sending a talented group of experienced veterans. Team USA will have a new leader between the pipes in Jonathan Quick. Major highlights on the roster include Ryan Suter, Ryan McDonagh, Dustin Brown, Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel, Zach Parise, and Derek Stepan. This is a stacked U.S. squad. They’ll look to finally climb over the hump in their journey that is Team Canada. In 2010, the U.S. fell in a nail-biter against rival Canada in the gold medal round, also recording a loss to our northern friends in 2002 during the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. The Americans haven’t won Olympic gold since the iconic “Miracle on Ice” victory in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Then we have Canada, who always, nor matter the level of competition, is the front runner in their respected ways. When you are lead by the likes of Sidney Crosby, you know your in the thick of things. They will head to Sochi with names like Johnathan Toews, Ryan Getzlaf, Drew Doughty, and much, much more.
Here’s a complete visual of each group:
U.S. should escape past Russia
When you look at the tape-to-tape attributes of the U.S. and group rival Russia, you have to admit the United States may have just the slightest advantage. I’m not being biased for my native country, just being honest. The hostess’s may be playing their own game of Russian roulette to determine their starting goaltender. Heading into the games, which are about a week away, Russia has three goal keepers who could become the primary one, yet that may be an onerous decision for the team. The current roster entails goaltenders Semyon Varlamov, Alexander Yeryomenko, and Sergei Bobrovski. All three are legitimate contenders for the starting role. The uncertainty of starting goaltender may be problematic for the host nation.
As for the Americans, they have the luxury of certainty. Jonathan Quick will look to lead his American lads for the first time in his Olympic career. He seems the clear choice for Head Coach Dan Bylsma. Jimmy Howard and Ryan Miller are two talented goaltenders themselves, yet cannot match the youthful Quick when he’s in stride.
The two nations will match up against one another on Sat. Feb. 15 in the Men’s Preliminary Round.
Canada vs. USA: Gold Medal Rematch
Every hockey fan, no matter the nation which they reside in, would love to spectate another CAN-USA grudge match to determine world supremacy. The U.S. has come far since its miracle days, and have morphed into an international powerhouse for hockey. This group has just as much a shot as any other to take down the Canadians at “their own game”.
If the U.S. can elude teams like Sweden or the Czech Republic on their quest for redemption, a rematch would be plausible. Canada, accordingly, will be the heavy favorite in Sochi. Canada looks to repeat its success from the previous Games, while teams like Russia, who hasn’t brought home hardware since 2002, Sweden since 2006 (gold medal winners), or Finland who attempts to soar past a bronze or silver round for a gold medal round.
All Olympic based facts, from past games to current, utilized from Sochi2014.com and olympic.org