NHL teammates put allegiances to country at forefront in Olympics
TribLIVE Sports Videos
There will be no mercy in the Olympics.
The seven Penguins in Sochi, Russia, have explained that, in these upcoming two weeks, countries come before NHL teammates.
But those sentiments expressed a special meaning for Olli Maatta, the gentle teenager who admires superstar teammates such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
“My teammates here in Pittsburgh are so great,” Maatta said. “Everyone has been so nice to me. I love it here, and the guys are great. But during the Olympics, we're wearing different uniforms. There will be no friends during the Olympics. We are friends off the ice. But on the ice, the other guys are, you know, the enemy.”
The Penguins find themselves in the crosshairs of potential sharing of secrets among Olympic teams.
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are the top-line centers on arguably the two favorites — Canada and Russia. Team USA coach Dan Bylsma, assistant coach Tony Granato and shutdown defensive pair Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik will attempt to stop them.
“I suspect there will be plenty of insider trading,” Martin said. “We'll be talking about all the guys we know and what their tendencies are and what we think are the best ways to go about playing them.”
The risk? Letting your fellow countrymen in on the secrets of your NHL teammates — and having that backfire later in the season.
So will Martin and Orpik let Team USA teammates Ryan Callahan and Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers know the best ways to stop Crosby or Malkin?
“Of course,” Martin said. “We all want to win a gold medal.”
It goes both ways.
The Capitals' John Carlson plays with Russian superstar Alex Ovechkin. Callahan and McDonaugh play in front of star goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Sweden's presumed starter, in New York.
The tips will be flying.
“It's the nature of the tournament,” Martin said. “We will talk and share information.”
Crosby and Malkin previously have played against one another on the international stage.
And they know that, linked as NHL teammates, a spotlight will be on them in the game's biggest theater.
“We don't talk about it, to be honest,” Crosby said. “I know it's something that other people talk about a lot, but we don't really mention it. No one wants to lose, and we're all competitors. And we know the time is coming.”
Martin, who will be playing in the Olympics for the first time, said seeing teammates on the other bench at the start of the tournament might be uneasy.
“It's hard to ignore when it's your teammates playing on the other team,” Martin said. “I've been in Pittsburgh for a few years. I know these guys. I like them. But once the puck drops, everything changes.”
Jussi Jokinen, who played for Finland in 2006, said he isn't concerned.
“I'm lucky because I'm not some physical guy who might end up hurting someone on another team that I play with,” Jokinen said. “But it's the Olympics. It's playing for my country. You give it your all when you're playing for Finland.”
During Penguins training camp, Bylsma spoke with reporters about the Olympics and Team USA's David Backes, a center for the St. Louis Blues. It was suggested that Backes stifles Crosby's effectiveness when the NHL clubs meet.
Bylsma shook his head and grinned.
“It's a funny thing,” Granato said. “We love the guys here. We want Sid and Chris Kunitz to play well in the Olympics. We want Jussi and Olli to play well. But this is the ultimate competition, the ultimate tournament. This tournament is what sports are all about. So from the American standpoint, we're going to do everything we can to win.”
Players such as Martin and Orpik, on the wrong side of 30, might be playing in the Olympics for the final time. Maatta almost certainly isn't, but he said he understands what is at stake and that his mentors in Pittsburgh won't be of any help in Sochi.
“That's OK,” Maatta said. “During the Olympics, you forget about the friend stuff. You have to.”
Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Volkswagen crashes through convenience store in Aliquippa
- Saxonburg man pleads no contest to setting boy, 7, on fire
- Steelers hoping that youth movement breathes life into team
- Pirates expect high prices in trade market
- Dollar Bank says URA didn’t talk about restrictions on use of August Wilson Center
- Steelers notebook: Team hasn’t called on Keisel, Harrison yet
- Police: Westmoreland women stole thousands to pay for dog show hobby
- 2 killed in East Huntingdon crash
- McCandless OKs land development plan for potential Wal-Mart
- Pirates’ Worley tosses 4-hit shutout vs. Giants
- Inside the ropes: Shazier shows off speed