Beginning today, our Dallas Stars will cheer on 4 of their teammates in Vancouver as the Winter games get cranked up. Brenden Morrow (CAN), Karlis Skrastins (LAT), Loui Eriksson (SWE) and Jere Lehtinen (FIN) hope to come back to Frisco with shiny new hardware. The Sharks and Red Wings each send a league high 8 Olympians to Vancouver, while the New York Islanders send the low number at only one (D Mark Streit).
This afternoon, the United States and Switzerland will kick off the masculine portion of the 2010 Olympic Hockey tournament at 2:00pm CST. The game will be on the USA network, and for those of us at work today, hopefully somewhere streaming on the internet. The tournament features twelve nations split into three groups. Pool play will commence amongst the groups, and the 12 teams ranked afterward. The top 4 teams will receive a bye to the quarter-final round, while the other 8 battle for a chance to meet them there.
There is a unique sports culture that exists in the United Stars revolving around our top quality professional leagues. Patriotism is often heard to be thrown out the window, or ignored altogether. I am always shocked when I hear basketball fans in the DFW area say, as they did last summer, that they'd sooner root for Dirk Nowitzki and team Germany than the Unites States, for example. I'd be interested to know where you all stand on issues such as these.
I assure you that no matter how much I may dislike the NHL players on team USA, that will all be set aside for the next two weeks as I vehemently cheer on the Red, White and Blue, and wish Brenden Morrow a speedy return to the metroplex.
Team USA aside (more on that later, I suspect), Let's take a look at our four Olympians after the jump...
When Morrow's knee injury forced him to sit out the remainder of the 2008-2009 season, he used the Olympics as one of many carrots in his nearly year-long rehab. Playing for Team Canada has long been a dream of Brenden's, and this will be his first and probably only trip. He told the Ft Worth Star Telegram: "It's huge. I have thought about this a lot. As much as we'd like to say we didn't think about it, I was thinking about it. I've represented Canada at every other level and the chance to do this is very special."
Where will Captain B fit into the the Canadian lineup? Thing didn't look so good in the initial practice yesterday. Says the Vancouver Sun: "Crosby skated on a line with Rick Nash and Patrice Bergeron; Getzlaf centered Eric Staal and Corey Perry; the so-called Sharks line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley was intact; and Jonathan Toews was between Jarome Iginla and Mike Richards. For now, Brenden Morrow is the extra forward." Morrow knew that he'd be an "energy guy" on that team, but now it seems he may have to sit a game out here and there.
The importance of Team Canada winning gold to the Canadian public is something I don't think we can quite fathom here in the U.S.. The thought of Morrow playing in front of what he considers to be a "home crowd" in the Canucks building is a bit of a sickening one, but we wish him luck and good health.
Eriksson, like Morrow, is playing in his first Olympic games. Unlike Brenden, however, he will probably get a chance to play the wing on a top three line for the Swedes as they try to defend their gold medal earned in Turin, 2006.
Despite it being his first Olympics, Loui is no stranger to international play. He represented Team Sweden in the under-18 IIHF World Juniors, and two additional years on the main World Junior Championship stage. He later went on to play in the World Hockey Championship in 2009, recording 7 points in 9 games, helping Sweden win the Bronze medal there.
There was a rumor going around that Eriksson would honor one of his Stars teammates with his choice of jersey number. Mike Heika asked him about it:
Eriksson wouldn't even confirm the rumor that he might wear No. 91 for Team Sweden as an homage to Stars linemate Brad Richards. "That hasn't been decided yet," Eriksson said with a sly smile. "But I have always liked that number."
Eriksson wouldn't even confirm the rumor that he might wear No. 91 for Team Sweden as an homage to Stars linemate Brad Richards.
"That hasn't been decided yet," Eriksson said with a sly smile. "But I have always liked that number."
On Sunday, Sweden will play Jere Lehtinen and team Finland on MSNBC.
"It's going to be fun to go there and play in the Olympics. Vancouver is a great place to play. It's the best players in the world. It's going to be awesome" -Andrew's Stars Page
This will be Skrastins' 3rd Olympic games representing Latvia. He has played 90 games in a Latvian sweater over the course of his career and will be one of only two NHL players on the Latvian roster. The other Stars fans may not have heard of: He's a big 23 year old kid named Oskars Bārtulis that plays for the Flyers; Also a defenseman.
While Skrastins will likely be the Dallas Stars logging the heaviest minutes per game, he could possibly be the Star with the shortest run at these Olympics depending on who Latvia draws after pool play.
The Winnipeg Free Press has a nice blurb with Skrastins in it:
Latvian defenceman Karlis Skrastins - one of two NHLers on the squad - believes they have a chance to upset the No. 1-ranked team in the world.
"We are ready, we are not scared," Skrastins said. "Of course we are respecting against who we're going to play. But we will be ready."
The 35-year-old remembers playing for his home country when it upset the stacked host team at the 2000 IIHF World Hockey Championship in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Even though some Latvian people view Russia as a rival, Skrastins isn't one of them.
"It's a lot of meaning to people, the history, you know," he said. "I'm not watching it. For me, it's just a sport and just another team against who I'm going to play. It's more exciting to have a chance to play against (the best players) - Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Malkin."
Karlis will reportedly wear #7 for Latvia.
It's been 20 years since a Finnish Olympic team took the ice without defensive-forward Jere Lehtinen. This will be Jere's 5th Olympic games, and his last. His international experience nearly rivals Skrasins with 83 games.
The Dallas RW sat out their most recent contest because of a "deep cut" on his knee, but is expected to be ready to take the ice when Finland begins pool play against Germany on Wednesday.
He has collected a silver medal (2006) and two bronze medals, (1998 and 1994).
Mark Stepneski has some quotes:
"It's the fifth time but every time it is great. The first time is special but going to the different places is great. ... "We played pretty good the last time and got close. But everybody knows all the teams are good. We're kind of underdogs again. But if everyone can stay healthy, we can have four good lines. Our goaltenders are very good." - Jere Lehtinen
"It's amazing that he's played in all of these. He's such a good competitor. We think he's our best defensive forward. " - Stars coach Marc Crawford
He also speculates that Lehtinen could see time on a line with Koivu and Selanne.
Be sure to follow along with SB Nations coverage of the Olympic Winter Games, here. I'm not too sure on where a Game thread will be for the USA stuff, but I'll update that when I find out, i.e. when Brandon tells me.
And as for Mike Modano being left off the USA roster: Call your congressmen, or vent below...