Rossi: Gonchar sees big year for Russians
Buffalo-born Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane suggested recently the hockey gods may be on Team USA's side this February at the Olympic Games in Vancouver.
"There is great talk about the 'Miracle On Ice,'" he said of the United States' upset victory over heavily favored Russia in the semifinal round of the 1980 Olympic men's ice hockey tournament at Lake Placid, N.Y.
"It's the 30th anniversary of that... hopefully we can make that mean something."
Told of Kane's hope, Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar suggested that perhaps the hockey gods will pay the karmic favor of returning Russia to the top of a sport its citizens once cherished and make it the defending Olympic champion when the Winter Games debut at his home country in 2016.
"This is going to be a big year for Russian hockey," he said. "All of Russia will be watching, and it will be important for us to show our people something. It is important for Russia to remind everybody what we can do in hockey."
Counting the loss in 1980, the then-Soviet Union won seven of nine gold medals in Olympic ice hockey from 1956-1988; but Russia's best finish over the past four Games was second in 1998.
Russia and Canada will arrive at Vancouver as co-favorites to claim gold, and players for each country will face surreal external expectations to win. That pressure is also internal for Team Russia, which conceivably could deploy a top line centered by Penguins superstar Evgeni Malkin (the reigning NHL scoring champion and playoff MVP) and wingers Alex Ovechkin (two-time defending MVP) and Ilya Kovalchuk (a former 50-goal scorer).
Hockey will rule in Canada no matter what its men's ice hockey team does at these Games. That might not hold true in Russia, where Gonchar said soccer had ruled, especially in major cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg, over the past few years.
Soccer's popularity and lucrative, tax-fee contracts offered by the second-year Kontinetal Hockey League are two big reasons, he guessed, that the final NHL season of this decade began with 64 fewer Russians playing in the sport's top league than at the turn of the century.
According to a USA Today report last week, only 23 Russians were currently on NHL rosters. Most of the Russians playing in the NHL are that country's elite players, including Malkin, Ovechkin and Kovalchuk — and they are ready to lead Team Russia in February, Gonchar said.
"They're old enough to recognize what is going on," he said. "They realize what is at stake."
Malkin stated that simply, and best.
"Pride for Russia," he said, "is to win gold.
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.
- Some of the top prospects in Penguins system to be in town for camp
- Penguins re-sign Megna, Samuelsson to 1-year deals
- Based on glowing recommendation, Pens hire Agnew as assistant
- Penguins are saying captain Crosby’s right wrist may need surgery
- New Penguins winger Spaling files for arbitration
- Pens hope to reach long-term deal with Brandon Sutter
- Downie: Joining Penguins ‘made sense’