Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.
Also find Russo on Facebook.
Email Michael to talk about hockey.
NHL players will compete in the 2014 Olympics, and the agreement reached means the long-awaited release of the NHL schedule for 2013-14 is expected to happen later today. The Olympic break will start Feb. 9 and NHL play will resume Feb. 26.
Per a news release:
The National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) and the National Hockey League (NHL) announced today that an agreement has been reached with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) to secure participation of NHL players in the upcoming 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
NHL players will be available to the 12 participating IIHF Member National Associations for the men’s Olympic ice hockey tournament (February 12 – 23, 2014). This will mark the fifth consecutive time dating back to Nagano 1998 that NHL players have participated in the Olympics. More than 120 NHL players are expected to compete for their respective nations in Sochi.
“The National Hockey League features the most international player population in professional sports, and our outstanding athletes take tremendous pride in representing their homelands on the global stage,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “The decision to participate in the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi was in many ways a difficult one, but one that we know will be well received by our Players and, most importantly, by the vast majority of our fans and sports fans everywhere.”
The Wild should be well represented in the Olympics. It could have as many eight players participate. Zach Parise, a captain contender, and Ryan Suter are shoo-ins to play for the United States, while Jason Pominville, born in Canada but with dual citizenship, is a roster contender.
Mikko Koivu should captain Finland, while Niklas Backstrom and Mikael Granlund are contenders. Nino Niederreiter is a shoo-in for Switzerland, while Jonas Brodin has already been invited to Sweden’s summer Olympic camp.
Parise and Suter won silver at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, while Koivu and Backstrom won bronze and silver respectively in 2010 and 2006 in Turin, Italy. Backstrom turns 36 on Feb. 13. With Pekka Rinne and Antti Niemi also options for Finland, Backstrom could be a longshot unless there’s injuries.
John Gibson and Jon Gillies combined on a 26-save shutout and eight different players scored as the U.S. junior national team opened the world tournament by beating Germany 8-0 in Ufa, Russia today.
Gibson had 19 saves in two periods and Gillies seven in the third.
Two Minnesotans, defenseman Mike Reilly and winger Mario Lucia, played for the U.S. but were held off the scoresheet.
Chris Peters' United States of Hockey has video highlights and an in-depth breakdown of the game here.
The U.S. plays Russia on Friday.
It's not often games live up to the hype, but I can't imagine covering a more exciting hockey game. Between the atmosphere and the type of hockey played and the mounted American comeback and the overtime winner, it was just a tremendous final display of these Olympics.
Just a thrill.
The Americans were obviously overwhelmed with disappointment, and most weren't taking solace in the achievement of winning a silver medal. Erik Johnson, for one, called it a "complete disappointment."
As Patrick Kane said, "You come here and you think of the feeling that it’s going to be winning gold, you don’t get it and then you’ve got to wait another four years to even have a chance at it. It stings."
But during this two-week tournament, behind great goaltending from Olympic MVP Ryan Miller, young, fast forwards and an unsung blue line, the Americans came together marvelously as a "team," and that's why today could have gone either way.
As for detailed coverage on the game, I direct you to the newspaper stories. That's why I write em. Jim Souhan and I will have a final webcam up soon.
It was an amazing experience to cover this men's hockey tournament, and all of the Olympics quite frankly. I found the luge fascinating, especially documenting Tony Benshoof for three days. I marvelled over the ski jumpers and I enjoyed standing in a snowstorm waiting for Lindsey Vonn's first downhill training run to be cancelled.
Now, it's back to covering the Wild for me. And, ugh, on to Calgary. Normally I love Calgary, but man, I've been gone since Feb. 9. I want to go home.
Guess what? At 11 p.m. Sunday night, the NHL trade freeze will be lifted, so I'd suspect we'll see some deals consummated Monday that were agreed upon during the embargo. The trade deadline is at 2 p.m. CT Wednesday.
I talked to GM Chuck Fletcher Sunday morning and he said, "We have nothing imminent. Whatever we do, I think it would be closer to the deadline, assuming we even do anything."
You can read the story in Monday's paper, but if Marek Zidlicky isn't signed by Wednesday, it would be absolutely shocking if he is not traded. The priority is to sign him, but Fletcher made clear that Zidlicky is a significant asset in the same category as Kim Johnsson. And as you know, he traded Johnsson in the Cam Barker deal.
Lastly, all Olympics long, I've heard the English version of the Olympic theme song, "I believe," by Nikki Yanofsky. Lately, I started to hear the French version. I remembered back in December when we were in Montreal, Guillaume Latendresse told me his girlfriend, French Canadian pop star Annie Villeneuve, was in Calgary buried inside a recording studio taping the theme for the Olympics.
I looked it up, and the French version is indeed sung by Villeneuve. Here's both versions.
Well, the last two practices of these Olympics are over, and Sunday's 2:15 p.m. CT dream gold-medal matchup is a few hours away.
Like they did against Finland, look for the Americans to go right after the Canadians. Said coach Ron Wilson, "If Canada comes at us really hard, we'll have counter measures. But we're not going to survive if we hide in a foxhole, I can tell you that. We're not going to sit in a foxhole like we've seen some teams do in this tournament and wait for Canada to make a mistake (see Germany, Slovakia)."
Check out Sunday's paper for all the preview and advance material for the game.
From the NHL, here’s a closer look at the opponents -- a game which features the NHL’s brightest
stars on the world’s largest hockey stage.
Avg. Height : 74.1" (6'2"); 72.7" (6'½")
Avg. Weight: 208.6 lbs.; 203.7 lbs.
Avg. Age: 28.0; 27.0
GP (skaters): 11,155; 7,602
Goals (skaters): 3,148; 1,609
Assists (skaters): 5,284; 2,765
Points (skaters:) 8,432 ;4,374
Hat Tricks: 47; 13
Stanley Cups: 14; 7
Height :6'3"; 6'2"
Weight: 207 lbs.' 174 lbs.
Age: 30; 29
Hometown: Montreal, Que.; East Lansing, Mich.
GP: 596; 316
Wins: 261; 176
Shutouts: 51; 17
GAA: 2.55; 2.58
Save Pct.: .919; .914
* The average age of both rosters combined (27.5 -- Canada 28.0, USA 27.0)
is younger than that of the NHL League-wide (27.6)
* 70% of the players on both rosters are under 30 (32 of 46)
* 90% of the players on both rosters are under 35 (41 of 46)
* There are eight players aged 23 and under (Drew Doughty, Patrick Kane,
Jonathan Toews, Erik Johnson, Phil Kessel, Sidney Crosby, Bobby Ryan, Jack
Johnson), all of whom were picked among the top five their respective draft
years (Crosby-Ryan-J. Johnson went 1-2-3 in 2005; E. Johnson, Toews and
Kessel went 1-3-5 in 2006; Kane went 1st in 2007 and Doughty went 2nd in
* Only one player on the Team USA roster ranks among the top 50 U.S.-born
players for career NHL games (captain Jamie Langenbrunner is 37th with 945)
* There are only three Team USA players among the top 150 U.S.-born players
for career NHL games (Langenbrunner, Chris Drury, Brian Rafalski)
* The average age of the gold medal finalists from the USA and Canada at
the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City was 31.55 (USA 31.7, Canada
And ... exhale.
Not just the premature-celebrating Canadians in this hockey arena tonight who were chanting, "We Want USA!" the entire first 10 minutes of the third period, but NBC. You can bet the network was especially holding its breath those last frantic few minutes as the Canadians nearly got tied up.
With a few seconds left, NBC came one Pavol Demitra shot away from a United States-Slovakia gold-medal game. But Demitra, twice in the last few minutes with the game on his stick, couldn't bury the equalizer, and the gold-medal rematch everybody wanted is here:
Sunday at 2:15 p.m. CT, Canada vs. the United States
And while the Americans waxed the Finns even though they took their foot off the gas the last few periods, the Canadians showed some real vulnerability tonight when the no-risk Slovaks finally decided to try to score. Playing the most conservative game in the history of the sport -- and I know conservative games -- the Slovaks finally forechecked in the third period and the Candians spent 10 minutes on its heels and nearly collapsed.
Canada can be forechecked, and as the Americans have shown during its 5-0 run to the gold-medal game, its got the speed to forecheck with the best of 'em. The Americans are confident, they haven't trailed in the tournament, they haven't been scored upon first in the tournament.
Who knows where this game would have ended if Marian Gaborik had played the third period? The oft-injured scoring stud didn't play the final 20 minutes. As of right now, it's unknown as to why. He came into the tournament with an injury, and told me two days ago that he was getting injections to be able to play. Did he reaggravate his injury or suffer a new one?
We will see if he plays in Saturday's bronze-medal game against Finland. Miikka Kiprusoff is supposed to get the start over Niklas Backstrom, by the way.
As for U.S.-Canada, it should be a classic. Can't wait.
As for details on the US now, here's Saturday's game story/big picture look at the team
Some good American one-liners from today:
|Vikings (32)||Gophers injuries (2)|
|Gophers on TV (1)||Gophers coaches (2)|
|Gophers players (7)||Gophers game day (6)|
|Gophers postgame (12)||Gophers awards and honors (1)|
|Gophers post season (1)||St. Cloud State (1)|
|Wild news (432)||Bears (5)|
|Lions (1)||Packers (2)|
|Super Bowl (6)||Vikings fans (3)|
|Ex-players (1)||Injury report (1)|
|On the road (157)||Rookies (34)|
|Roster moves (13)||Vikings draft (91)|
|Vikings trade talk (3)||Fighting (3)|
|Stanley Cup (28)||Wild coaching (32)|
|Wild game coverage (357)||Wild management (15)|
|Wild off-season news (421)||Wild player moves (122)|
|Wild practice (299)||Wild pregame skate (319)|
|Wild trade news (31)||Wild training camp (121)|
|Adrian Peterson (4)||Ben Leber (1)|
|Bernard Berrian (1)||Brad Childress (3)|
|Brett Favre (5)||Jared Allen (2)|
|Brad Childress (3)||NHL news (1)|
|2010 Winter Games (5)||Olympic hockey (24)|
|Olympic luge (3)||Olympic ski jumping (2)|
|Olympic skiing (2)||NHL draft (7)|
|Gophers sports (3)||Gophers (38)|