After spending the week debating on will they or won’t they, they National Hockey League has ruled in favour of letting it’s players participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics. The joint decision was made after months of talks by the Olympics themselves, the League and the National Hockey League Players Association. It’s a good thing because some players were threatening to go even without the league’s blessing.
The Olympics, which are being held in Sochi, Russia, will feature a dozen nations competing for gold. These nations include Canada, The United States, Russia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Austria, Finland, Norway, Czech Republic, Latvia, Switzerland and Sweden.
The NHL will shut down its season for two weeks in February to allow for the players to complete in the games. The stake is set high for Team Canada as they will be looking for a repeat as gold medal champions. If successful, they will become to the first nation to repeat as champs since the Soviet Union in 1988.
Another shock to the 2014 games is the first time competing of Team Slovenia. Slovenia is slated to be in Group A along Russia, Slovakia and the United States. They definitely have their work cut out for them. Team Austria will be competing in their first Winter Olympic games since 2002.
Now that the ruling has come down to allow for the players to participate in the Olympic Games, the National Hockey League should be releasing its 2013/2014 regular season schedule at some point later today.
Slovakia is a bit scary. Finishing a record 4th at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, the other teams in the tournament better be ready for them.
First let’s take a look at the defence. I shouldn’t have to say much when I say the name Zdeno Chara so I won’t, but Visnovsky, Meszaros and Baranka are all solid D men that could definitely put up a wall. Then again, Chara could play the whole tournament by himself on the blue line and they’d still probably reach 4th place.
Goaltending is pretty solid too. Look at former Montreal Canadien teammates Jaroslav Halak and Peter Budaj to be Slovakia’s one-two punch in net. If Halak can keep up his play, he will no doubt shine in the tournament.
Forwards is where it gets fun. Can you imagine a line of Hossa, Handzus and Gaborik? No? Yeah well, give your head a shake because it could happen. Kopecky, Stumpel and an old Buffalo fan favourite Miroslav Satan could also form line #2. That’s about as far as the depth chart goes though.
Keep an eye on these feisty Slovakians. They came so close to the podium in Vancouver; they just might reach it in Sochi.
Time to look at one of my personal favourites going into Sochi 2014, Team Czech Republic. The Czechs have been on the podium in the past 3 World Championships and are not going to go down without a fight. In Vancouver they finished a distant 7th but don’t count them out as the IIHF has them ranked 3rd in the world. That’s saying something.
They have a depth of talent on the forward front. Lead by veterans Jaromir Jagr and Patrick Elias, look for David Krejci, Jiri Hudler, Tomas Plekanec and Jakub Voracek to all earn their keep.
On the defensive side, Marek Zidlicky and possibly Tomas Kaberle could be your first lining pair. Along with Filip Kuba and Roman Hamrlik, these are two strong defensive pairings. Almost wall like. As long as Kuba doesn’t play like he did in Ottawa.
Goaltending has a wealth of depth as well. Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavelec will definitely start followed by Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth. All 3 have had plenty of experience under pressure situations and well be sure to be rock solid.
Next team we take a look at on our road to Sochi is Tre Konor, aka Team Sweden.
Hellooooooo defence. Lidstrom’s retired you say? Ha. Just take a look at this list of defensive depth: Erik Karlsson, Alexander Elder, Niklas Kronwall, Stanley Cup champ Johnny Oduya, Tobias Enstrom, Victor Hedman and there are a few other names that could pop up from now until the roster is finalized. Pffftttt. Who needs Lidstrom?
Forwards: Alright, so everyone knows the Sedins and that should be their backbone. Oh no no no my friends. Don’t forget about Hennrik Zetterberg, Patrick Berglund, Niklas Backstrom, Johan Franzen, Loui Eriksson, Gabriel Landeskog, and if Captain Ottawa decides to keep playing Alfredsson will be a welcome addition.
Goaltending isn’t as deep but that doesn’t matter when your star goaltender is Henrik Lundqvist. Tampa Bay’s Anders Lindback could wind up being back up but we all know he won’t see much playing time unless Lundqvist gets hurt.
Either way, Sweden is pretty evenly spread out. It’ll be interesting to see where they end up finishing.
The Olympics are not far away so it’s time to brush up on our international hockey teams.Team Finland has not been very strong in their national department of defence on the ice. That being said, their dynamite offensive forwards make up for a lot of that.
Although the roster’s won’t be finalized for a while there are a few players that we can speculate on. Two big names that play in their favour are Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu. The fire power on these two and veteran sense can come a long way in a tournament like the Olympic games. Also, god bless Teemu.
Koivu’s younger brother Mikko and Valtteri Flippula are also two big strong offensive pieces to their puzzle. And then there’s Olli Jokinen….
Goaltending. You want to talk about depth. The top 3 goaltenders the Fins have are Pekka Rinne, Antti Niemi and hot flavour of the moment Tuukka Rask. My god the Flyers would invade for that kind of lineup.
The defensive line is old and speaking of the Flyers, leading the way is Kimmo Timonen. Along with Sammi Salo, they both provide leadership and veteran qualities to help out young pups like Sami Lepisto.
Finland is apart of the ‘Big 7’ and won bronze in Vancouver but nobody ever seems to remember that. Well, I do and I’m these guys could shock a few people.
The Canadian National Women’s Hockey Team have started the long road of training for the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi, Russia.
A roster of 27 players just finished an intense month long boot camp in Penticton, British Columbia. The roster of 27 is made up of 3 goaltenders, 9 defencemen and 15 forwards. Veteran players Hayley Wickenheiser, Gillian Apps and Jayna Hefford were all in attendance. Team Canada is looking for another repeat gold medal in Sochi and head coach Dan Church is pleased with he the team he has put together so far.
In November, the team will take part in the famous 4 nations cup in Lake Placid, New York. Along with Canada and The US, Sweden and Finland make up the four teams. Team Canada has come out on top 12 times in 17 tournaments and is favoured to win it once again.
Women’s hockey has come a long way in the past ten years. Finland, Sweden and Russia have stepped their game up and now ice competitive teams. We can never count out Team USA though as they are still incredibly strong.
The 2014 Olympics in Sochi are right around the corner. Except Team Canada to announce the final roster sometime in late December.