From Feb. 9- 25 the National Hockey League “hibernates” as it sends some of its top players over to Sochi to represent their countries in the ice hockey tournament. The last time we saw Olympic hockey was in the 2010 Vancouver games which did not disappoint if you’re Canadian. For Team USA, it was a heartbreaker as they lost in overtime to Team Canada 3-2 in the gold medal game. The United States tied the game with 24.4 seconds left in the game to tie it but Sidney Crosby notched the game winner for the Canadians in overtime. It was a great game and it set the stage for this year’s tournament.
First, there is Team Canada who is always expected to win gold simply because hockey is “their game.”.” Canada’s roster boasts names such as Sidney Crosby, Matt Duchene, Rick Nash, Johnathan Toews and many more all-star caliber players. Team Canada is scary good as always. One storyline that was a bit controversial was how Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux was not only snubbed once but twice for the Olympic roster. Tampa Bay star Steven Stamkos was hoping to go to Sochi but his injury back in Nov. has kept him from being cleared to play. Many thought Giroux would be a sure replacement but Tampa’s Martin St. Louis was chosen to replace Stamkos a few days ago. Other players on Team Canada were questionably picked over Giroux but it’s too late now. Team Canada is a powerhouse and will be tough to beat.
Next, there is Team USA. The United States is looking to avenge the 2010 loss to Canada this year. Team USA has some familiar faces back on the squad like Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, Phil Kessel and goaltender Ryan Miller. One face that many will miss is Bobby Ryan. He was a key player for the United States back in 2010 and many thought he was a lock for these games too but team general managers thought differently this time. Of course, USA’s main goal will be to win gold and they have a good shot of doing that as they have the past few games. Nothing will ever be as great as the Miracle of 1980 against the Soviet Union but maybe we will have something else unfold that will stand among the ranks of Lake Placid.
Other countries may be sleepers in this year’s games too. Russia, Sweden and Finland all have teams more than capable of upsetting one of the top tier countries. Hockey action starts on Feb. 12th and all Eastern game times can be found at http://www.nhl.com/ice/schedulebyseason.htm?gameType=9&location=/olympics/2014.