Ice Hockey (Men)
The U.S. men’s ice hockey team won the silver medal at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games and will look to carry its momentum into the Sochi Games. Team USA completed the Vancouver Games with a 5-1 record, with its lone loss coming in overtime to Canada, 3-2, in the gold-medal match. Overall, the team’s high-powered offense outscored its opponents, 24-9. With the nucleus of the team slated to return in 2014, Team USA is poised to be a favorite in Sochi.
Ryan Miller – who was named the top goalkeeper and MVP of the Vancouver Games – will be vying for a chance to return in goal. Jimmy Howard (Detroit Red Wings), Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings) and Cory Schneider (Vancouver Canucks) will also contend for one of three goaltending roster spots. Another top contender is Tim Thomas, who opted not to play during the 2012-13 season, but plans to return for the 2013-14 campaign.
At forward, Team USA’s talent pool runs deep. Names likely to fill the U.S. roster include Zach Parise (Minnesota Wild), who was the top point-getting forward on the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team; the dynamic Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks); and offensive threats Phil Kessel (Toronto Maple Leafs), Ryan Kesler (Vancouver Canucks) and Bobby Ryan (Anaheim Ducks). Additional hopefuls include Dustin Brown (Los Angeles Kings), David Backes (St. Louis Blues), Ryan Callahan (New York Rangers) and Joe Pavelski (San Jose Sharks).
Team USA lost a key component on the defensive end with the retirement of Brian Rafalski, but has high hopes for a seasoned crop of defensemen, including Ryan Suter (Minnesota Wild), Erik Johnson (Colorado Avalanche), Jack Johnson (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Brooks Orpik (Pittsburgh Penguins).
In addition to Team USA, Olympic host Russia, Canada, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic are likely to field strong teams at the Sochi Games. The talented field will compete at the Bolshoy Ice Dome, located in the costal cluster.
- The U.S. has captured the silver medal in two of the last three Olympic Winter Games; however, the U.S. will be attempting to win medals in back-to-back Games for the first time since winning silver in 1956 and gold in 1960. The U.S. men’s ice hockey team has won medals in back-to-back Games three times (silver, 1932; bronze, 1936; silver, 1952; silver, 1956; gold, 1960).
- In 1996, USA Hockey started its National Team Development Program to help influence success in international competition, including the Olympic Winter Games. In 2006, three players with connections to the NTDP were part of the U.S. Olympic roster, while in 2010, that number rose to seven. The number of athletes from the development program to earn spots on the 2014 roster remains to be seen, but the total has potential to rise again. The NTDP is most certainly having its intended effect, with the U.S. winning a medal in three of the last four IIHF World Junior Championships – including two golds – and four-straight titles at the IIHF U18 Men’s World Championship.
- The race for the starting goaltender position is shaping up to be an interesting story. Ryan Miller – who was named MVP at the Vancouver Games after setting a U.S. Olympic record with 1.35 goals-against average – is sure to contend for the starting role. However, Jonathan Quick – who backstopped the Los Angeles Kings to the 2012 Stanley Cup championship – was one of three goaltenders on the 2010 squad and will be a strong challenger for the job. Jimmy Howard and Cory Schneider are also likely to be in the mix along with 2010 Olympian Tim Thomas, who will be 39 years old at the time of the Sochi Games.
- The U.S. will likely conduct a camp in late August, featuring approximately 40 candidates for the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team.
ATHLETES TO WATCH
A 2010 alternate captain, Parise helped lead the U.S. to the silver medal at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. His international success began in 2002, when he aided Team USA to its first gold medal at the IIHF U18 Men’s World Championship. Two years later, he guided the U.S. to its first gold medal at the IIHF World Junior Championship. He will likely return as captain for the 2014 Olympic Team. Parise – who played hockey at the University of North Dakota – married his college sweetheart, Alisha Parise, in July 2012.
In 2012, Quick was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy, recognizing the most valuable player of the NHL playoffs after he backstopped the Los Angeles Kings to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup title. He is among a strong lot of American goaltenders vying to make the 2014 Olympic Team. Quick – who played hockey at University of Massachusetts Amherst – and his wife, Jaclyn Quick, have a 2-year-old daughter, Madison.
Suter has played a big role in Team USA’s success on the international stage. In 2002, he helped the U.S. win its first gold medal at the IIHF U18 Men’s World Championship. Two years later, he led the team to its first gold medal at the IIHF World Junior Championship. Hockey runs deep in the Suter family. His father, Bob Suter, played on the 1980 U.S. “Miracle on Ice” men’s hockey team, while his uncle, Gary Suter, played on both the 1998 and 2002 U.S. Olympic Teams. Ryan Suter – who played college hockey at the University of Wisconsin – and his wife, Beck Suter, have a 2-year-old son, Brooks.
Automatic qualification for the men's tournament at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games was determined by the IIHF men’s world ranking following the 2012 IIHF Men's World Championship. The top-nine teams earned automatic berths into the Games, including the U.S., which ranked seventh. Other nations will have an opportunity to earn one of the three remaining qualifying spots during tournament play, scheduled for Feb. 7-10, 2013.
Players are continually evaluated during the NHL season. The final Olympic roster will be named in early January. The announcement will likely be in conjunction with the 2014 NHL Winter Classic.
|January||NHL Winter Classic (Olympic Team announced)|