Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Some Olympic Notes

We're exactly one month from the hockey tournament starting in Sochi, Russia, so it seems appropriate to point out some notes about the competition. While some of these facts may be known to you, there are some that have been dug up that I was unaware of when I read them. If anything, it just goes to show that there is always some quirk or coincidence that can be uncovered in the game of hockey that may have gone unnoticed by many. In any case, here are some facts that should be known for the start of the Olympic tournament.
  • There will be two Olympic ice hockey arenas in Sochi: the Bolshoy Ice Dome and the Shayba Arena. The Bolshoy Ice Dome will seat 12,000 people while the Shayba Arena will seat 7000 people. The distance between the two arenas? 300 meters or 985 feet.
  • The Shayba Arena will play host to all of the sledge hockey events during the Paralympics.
  • The Shayba Arena will be physically moved to another location in Russia once the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games are complete. I've heard of hockey teams relocating, but hockey arenas? That's a first.
  • Jessie Vetter, goaltender for the US women's team, will have 23-carat gold leaf embossing on her mask for the Sochi Olympic Games. I'm not sure how this will affect her play, but it is interesting considering she has yet to win a gold medal at an Olympic Games tournament.
  • There are only two NHL teams that have sent players to Team Russia since 1998. They would be the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
  • Russia has never won an Olympic men's hockey medal. The Unified Team won in 1992 as the former Soviet Union was dissolving, and the Soviet Union dominated before that. Russia looks to claim their first Olympic men's hockey medal on home soil.
  • His total is still rising with his two goals against the Jets last night, but it needs to be said: Martin St. Louis has scored the most points of any NHL player since the last Olympics.
  • The average age of the Canadian team selected: 28.2 years-old.
  • The payroll of Team Canada weighs in at $150.9 million, the highest of all teams.
  • Teemu Selanne will participate in his sixth Olympic Games for Finland. He has 37 points in 31 games, and owns a silver medal and two bronze medals. He ties fellow Finn Raimo Helminen for most appearances by a hockey player.
  • Selanne will be the oldest hockey player at this year's Olympiad when he suits up at the age of 43. However, he has a few years to catch the oldest hockey player. In 1928, Hungarian goalie Belo Ordody strapped the pads on at the age of 48!
  • Petr Nedved, at age 42, will suit up for the Czech Republic. The last time he did that, Nedved played for the Czech Republic in Lillehammer some 20 years ago! The 20-year gap is the largest for an Olympian.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin is making his rounds as the Sochi Olympic Games approach, and he spent some time on the ice this past week! Putin played alongside Russian legends Pavel Bure and Vyacheslav Fetisov, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, and Soviet hockey legend Alexander Yakushev. The 61 year-old reportedly didn't score, but it's pretty impressive to see him skating amongst the other stars on the ice! Reports state that Putin approves of the arena and ice already.
  • Despite having their father as the head coach, the Slovenian national team will not feature the brother tandem of Anze and Gaspar Kopitar. Anze made the team with little trouble, but Gaspar's name did not appear on the final selection list. Gaspar is currently playing for the ECHL's Ontario Reign where he has a goal and two assists in four games.
  • Outside of the seven regular teams at the Olympics - Canada, the US, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, and Slovakia - there have been two other teams that have been at the last four Winter Olympic Games alongside these "Power Seven" nations. Those countries? Switzerland and Latvia.
  • The Swiss Olympic team will feature two goaltenders and four defencemen currently playing in the NHL, but will be thinner up front. Damian Brunner and Nino Niederreiter will play in Sochi, but Calgary's Sven Baertschi was not invited. The remaining players play in Europe.
  • Austria will have a team at the Olympics for the first time since 2002, qualifying over Olympic regular Germany to make it. While they are a long-shot to do anything more than participate, they do feature Michael Grabner, Thomas Vanek, and Michael Raffl. Defenceman Thomas Pock is the only returnee from the 2002 team when he was 20.
  • Norway features one NHL player who almost didn't make the team over a sponsorship scandal! Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello appeared to be not on the Norway roster after he accepted a sponsorship with a rival of the Norwegian national team! Luckily, that has been resolved, and Zuccarello will skate for the Norwegians.
  • Legendary Norwegian hockey hero Tore Vikingstad was not named to the team in 2014. Vikingstad is now 38 and still playing in Germany for the Hannover Scorpions. He is best remembered for his hat trick performance over the Swiss in Vancouver. Vikingstad was a 6th-round pick of the St. Louis Blues in 1999 at 180th overall.
  • Another of the graybeards to be invited to the Olympics is Latvia's Sandis Ozolinsh at age 41. Ozolinsh played for Latvia at the 2002 and 2006 Olympics, and had retired from international play after the Torino Olympics. Or so we had thought.
  • The Swedish roster is full of NHL stars except for one player: Jimmie Ericsson. Jimmie is the older brother of Detroit's Jonathan Ericsson, and plays for Skelleftea in the Swedish Elite League. The left winger currently has 10 goals and 11 assists in 33 games.
So there's a pile of stuff to get you up-to-speed for the Olympics as we're into the final 30 days before the hockey events start. Honestly, I'm pretty pumped. While I may be a homer when it comes to these big international tournaments, I am really looking forward to some excellent hockey played by the world's best on the biggest stage!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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