The winter Olympics in Vancouver is upon us and what better way to introduce you to the NHL and the sport of hockey then to go over a few things about a couple of the men’s hockey teams that will be participating next week (the preliminary round begins Tuesday, February 16th)!
The Olympic Games are representative of the most elite athletes around the world, so it would make sense that the majority of the men’s hockey teams include NHL players. There are actually 12 nations participating in men’s hockey for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver (Canada, Russia, Finland, Sweden, US, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Belarus, Latvia, Germany, Norway, Switzerland), but since it would be too tedious to review all of them, I’ll go over a few of the favorites and more popular teams as well as a couple of the players.
This is always the team that gets a lot of attention in national competitions, especially the Olympics just because of where they are from. Canada is a huge hockey-loving nation (just like football in Texas) that has produced a long list of exceptional players … Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, to name a few. Where Team Canada probably stands out among the rest is with their goaltending as super stars like Martin Broudeur of the NJ Devils, Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks, and we can’t forget Marc-Andrew Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins will be defending the net. The only questionable player to possibly miss out on the games is Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks who is currently nursing a sprained ankle.
I believe this team will be the one to beat; the players make up an arsenal of talent. Individually these players are quite a talented bunch of skillful players, so combining them into one team makes them incredibly dangerous. Powerhouses like Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, and Ilya Kovalchuk of the NJ Devils are only a few of the weapons that Team Russia possesses on the 2010 squad.
Team Sweden is the defending gold-medalist, so everyone will be gunning for them. Injuries could play a role in keeping them from a repeat as Niklas Kronwall and Tomas Holmstrom (both of the Detroit Red Wings) are currently “day-to-day” with knee and leg injuries.
Our 2010 team consists of up-and-coming players who are pretty young when compared to the other teams as well as previous US teams. There’s not much in the way of Olympic experience or veteran presence and that is what the coaching staff decided to go with this time around. But what they lack in experience, they certainly make up for in goaltending ability with Buffalo Sabres’ Ryan Miller, and Boston Bruins’ Tim Thomas. Team USA has not been immune to the injury bug either with Mike Komisarek (defenseman for the Montreal Canadiens) out due to a shoulder injury that will need surgery and Paul Martin of the New Jersey Devils with a broken left arm.
TEAM CZECH REPUBLIC
This nation’s team is already off to a bad start with two of their biggest players suffering injuries; Patrick Elias, the team’s captain and member of the NJ Devils recently suffered a concussion while hit by Colorado Avalanche defenseman. He is currently on “injured reserve” (IR). Another fellow countryman, Milan Hejduk who plays for the Colorado Avalanche, underwent knee surgery back in January which is keeping him out of commission for 4-6 weeks. Both of these players remain questionable for the Olympics, but would serve a huge blow to the Czech Republic’s chances at a medal.
Another team whose hopes are dashing too with two of their biggest talents plagued with injuries. Teemu Selaenne, right winger for the Anaheim Ducks, fractured his jaw after being hit with a puck for which he underwent surgery shortly after. It’s reported he’s to be out for 2-6 weeks. His teammate and captain of Team Finland, Saku Koivu, was kept out of the lineup due to a lower body injury back in January. The status of these players is unknown as to whether or not they will be healthy enough to participate in the Olympics.
It will be fun to watch all of this play out especially between Team Canada and Team Russia and although I’ll be cheering on Team USA as a proud American, and Team Canada possesses some of my favorite players, I believe that Team Russia will edge out among all of the teams with their well-rounded talent and strong will. As for a specific prediction, I would say Team Russia (Gold), Team Canada (Silver), and Team Sweden (Bronze). I think that Team USA is too young and inexperienced to even place, but here’s hoping for another “Miracle on Ice!”