EXCITEMENT BUILDS FOR ‘SUPER SUNDAY’ AT 2010 OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES
NEW YORK (February 20, 2010) — The NHL’s biggest stars and international hockey’s greatest rivalries will shine on the world stage Sunday when the preliminary round of men’s ice hockey at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver peaks with an exciting triple-header.
The Czech Republic takes on Russia at 3 p.m., ET; Canada faces the United States at 7:40 p.m., ET and Finland battles Sweden at midnight, ET. At stake during this day-long hockey celebration: match-ups for the Olympic tournament playoffs Feb. 23-28 and, of course, fierce national pride.
From the moment the Olympic men’s hockey schedule was released months ago, hockey fans have circled this date — Super Sunday — as can’t-miss appointment viewing.
“I’m anticipating one of the best atmospheres I’ve been in,” said Team USA head coach Ron Wilson. “Here, it’s going to be on every TV in Canada and a good number in America. Anyone who is a hockey fan will be watching.”
In an added twist that showcases the competitiveness of international hockey at the top level, Sunday’s match-ups represent the three Olympic gold medal finals since NHL players made their Olympic debut in Nagano, Japan in 1998.
Czech Republic vs. Russia, 3 p.m., ET/Noon PT
Canadian Broadcaster: TSN and V
U.S. Broadcaster: NBC
The origin of this hockey rivalry dates to the Cold War era, when Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union dominated Olympic and World Championship competition and political overtones permeated their on-ice meetings. Unlike the Iron Curtain that separated these hockey powers from the West for decades, the rivalry lives on. When they met in the gold medal game in 1998 at Nagano, the goaltending heroics of Dominik Hasek gave the Czechs their first Olympic title and sent tens of thousands of celebrating fans into the streets of Prague.
The contest also features the enticing match-up of five-time NHL scoring champion and 1999 League MVP Jaromir Jagr of the Czech Republic, who turned 38 Monday, against 24-year-old Russian star Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, the two-time reigning NHL MVP and goal-scoring leader.
Canada vs. United States, 7:40 p.m., ET/4:40 p.m. PT
Canadian Broadcaster: CTV and V, Omni 1, Omni 2 (presented in Cantonese/Mandarin)
U.S. Broadcaster: MSNBC
Team USA’s triumph over Canada at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey in Montreal, the Canadians’ ending their half-century Olympic gold medal drought in 2002 at Salt Lake City and recent World Junior Championship classics have raised this rivalry to new heights. Additionally, the cross-border, cross-pollination thread that runs through the 46 players on both rosters makes for endless storylines.
Twenty-one of the 23 Team Canada players, plus GM Steve Yzerman and head coach Mike Babcock, compete for U.S.-based NHL clubs. In the other dressing room, Team USA GM Brian Burke, head coach Ron Wilson and forwards Ryan Kesler and Phil Kessel are employed by Canadian-based NHL clubs. Paul Stastny was born in Canada. Zach Parise’s father J.P. represented Canada in the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union. Others, such as Buffalo native and 2008 first overall draft pick Patrick Kane, starred in Canadian junior hockey.
There also are fault lines running through NHL dressing rooms:
* Team’s USA’s Jamie Langenbrunner and Zach Parise will try to score on Devils teammate and Canada goaltender Martin Brodeur.
* Canada defenders Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, who with forward Jonathan Toews comprise the Chicago Blackhawks’ representatives on Team Canada, will attempt to shut down Blackhawks/USA forward Patrick Kane. Pittsburgh Penguins/USA defender Brooks Orpik will try and do the same to Canada star and Penguins teammate Sidney Crosby.
* More than 30% of the players on both rosters (14 of 46) are from California-based NHL clubs: five San Jose Sharks (Joe Pavelski, USA; Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley and Dan Boyle, Canada), five Anaheim Ducks (Bobby Ryan and Ryan Whitney, USA; Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Scott Niedermayer, Canada) and four Los Angeles Kings (Jack Johnson, Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick, USA; Drew Doughty, Canada).
* Which young blueline stars of the Nashville Predators will prevail: Shea Weber (Canada) or Ryan Suter (USA)? Or those from the Kings, Drew Doughty (Canada) or Jack Johnson (USA)?
Finland vs. Sweden, midnight, ET/9 p.m. PT
Canadian Broadcaster: CTV
U.S. Broadcaster: MSNBC
The rivalry between these Scandinavian neighbors takes a back seat to none. The Finns still delight in recalling their victory over Sweden in the 1995 World Championships, the first title in their nation’s history and won in the Swedish capital Stockholm. The Swedes, meanwhile, derived extra satisfaction that their triumph in the gold medal game at the 2006 Olympics in Turin came at the expense of the Finns.
Adding intrigue to tomorrow’s encounter: could this game be the final time that two national icons, Sweden’s 36-year-old Peter Forsberg and Finland’s 39-year-old Teemu Selanne face each other in competition?