As the Summer Olympics come to a close this weekend, the spotlight shifts to Vancouver in 2010 for the Winter Games. This means only one thing: the best hockey on an international stage. Players playing for pride and for their home country. An opportunity for players who may never reach the Stanley Cup Finals to play for possibly the greatest championship on the planet. An opportunity for players who cannot reach the NHL to showcase their skills in front of the world. The Winter Olympics highlight some of the greatest team-driven hockey we can ever witness, creating moments like Gretzky’s pass to Lemieux for the game-winning goal in the 1987 Canada Cup, which is considered one of the greatest moments in hockey history. The greatest players in the world playing on the same team, and even on the same line. These are the games that every hockey fan hopes to see.
Team Sweden, who won the gold in 2006, was lead by Mats Sundin, Nick Lidstrom, Daniel Alfredsson, Peter Forsberg, Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Holmstrom, and Henrik Lundqvist to name a few. Silver medalist Finland included names like Jokinen, Koivu, Lehtinen, Ruutu, Selanne, Backstrom, and Nittymaki. These ultimate all-star teams clash to prove who is the best in the world.
But let’s look ahead to 2010. The Czech team is going to look a lot younger than it has for the past few Olympic Games. Names such as Elias, Hejduk, Jagr, Lang, Straka, and Hasek could likely be missing from the 2010 roster. Even though Jagr’s last words before heading to Russia were, “Maybe I will see you in 2010,” it is more than unlikely he will play. (SF Gate- AP). Jagr will be 38 years old, and two years removed from facing NHL talent. Not only that, but the Czech take a lot of pride in the sport of hockey. Winning gold in Nagano in 1998 with easily one of the most powerful teams in Olympic history set the standard. Bringing home the bronze in 2006 was not good enough. Do not be surprised to see Olympic teams start to look younger, building on the same strategy as the “new NHL.”
I think two teams will be heavy favorites for the gold medal: Canada and Russia. Team Canada will be lead by superstars Sidney Crosby, Vincent Lecavalier, Jarome Iginla, Eric and Jordan Staal, Martin St. Louis, Rick Nash, Roberto Luongo, Marty Turco, and most likely Marty Brodeur to name a few. The roster for Team Russia will include talents such as Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Alexei Kovalev, Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk, Viktor Kozlov, Maxim Afinogenov, Sergei Fedorov, Sergei Gonchar, and our old friend Alexei Morozov. These two teams will display some of the most preeminent talent to strap on a pair of skates.
So as you watch teams battle in handball and doubles table tennis for gold in 2008, we can always look forward to Vancouver in two short years for a hockey spectacle we may never forget.
~Dan @ Pittsburgh Puck Talk