Repeat in Russia

Will Canada strike gold in Sochi 2014?

By Elliot Chan, Staff Writer

Sports_Sochi-hockey

Formerly published in the Other Press. Aug. 6, 2013

Remember that day in February 2010? Remember the city—the country bursting with jubilation? Wouldn’t it be great to relive it?

Sure, the Olympics in Sochi is months away, but it’s never too early to talk about international hockey—especially since the NHL has now confirmed that its players will be able to compete in the prestigious tournament.

The most notable change in Sochi in comparison with Vancouver is the rink size. The two Canadian ice hockey gold medals in 2002 and 2010 were won on NHL-sized ice (61m by 26m). In Russia, the Canadians will be competing on international-sized ice, which is (61m by 30.5m). Rink sizes have posed challenges before, especially against speedy teams like Russia who can take advantage of the open ice.

The home team is the favourite going into the tournament, but Canada, Sweden, and the United States shouldn’t be intimidated by the jeers they’re expecting when they step onto the ice against superstars such as Pavel Datsyuk, Alexander Ovechkin, and former NHLer turned KHLer Ilya Kovalchuk.

Since the days of the Soviet Union and the Unified Team in 1992, Russia itself has never won a gold medal. But there was a period in history when the red army dominated international ice. But like the Cold War, those days are long gone and though Russia has a barrage of talent, they haven’t been able to make the podium since 2002.

The question that hangs on everyone’s lips is will Canada be able to repeat? I hope I eat my own words, but I don’t believe they will. There hasn’t been an Olympic ice hockey repeat since the Soviets did it in the late ‘80s. Canada might be good, but we have never been dominant. The fact that we won in 2010 was not a miracle, but it was definitely a hard fought game that came down to one key moment. We could easily be talking about USA’s chance of repeating right now if it wasn’t for Sidney Crosby’s heroics.

In 2006, Canada followed up their gold medal victory in Salt Lake City with a demoralizing seventh place finish in Turin. By relying on players that had experience, but were way past their prime like Kris Draper, Adam Foote, and Todd Bertuzzi, the team was doomed from the start. Selecting the perfect team is difficult, since it’s about assigning roles to elite players. With Mike Babcock, head coach of Detroit Red Wings returning to serve another term as team Canada’s bench boss, the players and fans will know they are in good hands. Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, and Shea Weber can all be expected on the roster come February 12, 2014, but the number one goaltender is still unknown.

Martin Brodeur will also be stepping down this year from the international limelight. Roberto Luongo will likely get a few games just because of his reputation, while Carey Price, Cam Ward, and Marc-Andre Fleury will fight for the last two spots.

As excited as I am for the beginning of the NHL season, there is something about Olympic hockey that can make a grown man giddy. The NHL season will pause their schedule from February 9 to February 25 for what should be some epic games in the Motherland.

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