It’s been over three years since Sidney Crosby’s “golden goal” for Team Canada in the 2010 Winter Olympics, but it sure doesn’t feel like it’s been that long.
“It's gone by really fast,” he admitted. “And obviously with injuries and stuff like that, too, it wasn’t like there were three full hockey seasons to kind of look back on. It's definitely gone by quick.”
Now the Penguins captain can officially look ahead to the 2014 Winter Olympics, as it was announced Friday that NHL players will be going to Sochi, Russia to participate in the Games.
The NHL will break from the 2013-14 regular season schedule on Feb. 9 and return to play Feb. 26 to allow for participation in the Games. Pittsburgh’s last game before the Olympic break will be Feb. 7 vs. New York Rangers, and their first game back will be Feb. 27 vs. Montreal.
“It’s exciting,” Crosby said. “You start to kind of think about it, and obviously with it being announced that we're going and knowing there's going to be an Olympic training camp and you're going to begin that process with the schedule too, usually you find out pretty quickly that an Olympic year schedule is a little more condensed, a little more intense than a typical year. I think there's always a lot of anticipation for it.”
Taking a moment to reflect back on his experience in 2010, what was his favorite part of taking a break from being an NHL player to become an Olympic athlete?
“I would say just I think the people you meet, meeting different athletes,” he mused. “And I think the biggest thing is representing your country. I think anybody who gets a chance to do that, there's a lot of pride that comes with that. And being Canadian and playing hockey, that's a dream come true. So I think that’s the big part of it.”
Crosby led Team Canada to the gold medal in dramatic, spectacular, storybook fashion (there really aren’t enough adjectives to describe what happened) that year, scoring the game-winning goal in overtime against Team USA in the gold-medal game.
It may have played out like a fairytale, but to Crosby and everyone representing Canada, that was just the fulfillment of an expectation. In addition to dreaming of one day hoisting the Stanley Cup, little boys in Canada also hope to someday wear a red and white maple leaf across their chest and represent their country. They live and breathe hockey.
So going into Russia and repeating as gold medalists? It’s not just a hope or a dream, it’s the expectation for Canada. It’s what Crosby has wanted to do since he won the last one.
And while it was sweet to win on home soil in Vancouver, winning in Russia would be special in its own way, reflecting back on the history between the teams.
“I think when you play for Canada, that's the expectation,” he said. “I have never been to Russia, (but) obviously everyone knows the history with Canada-Russia in ’72 and ’87 and the list goes on and on. I think that right there, having the opportunity to play hockey in Russia is pretty special. But with the Olympics in general, I think that just being Canadian, you realize pretty quickly that people come together at that time of year especially. When it’s hockey, even more so. So I think yeah, you want to go there and find a way to win gold.”
He’ll have to go through familiar faces first.
Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma is head coach of Team USA (arguably Canada’s biggest rival and who will surely be looking for redemption after the way 2010 ended in silver for them), which will likely return Brooks Orpik and perhaps feature Paul Martin on defense. Then, of course, fellow superstar Evgeni Malkin will be playing for his native Russia, another rival of Canada.
“I’m sure it’ll be brought up,” Crosby laughed of the Penguins teammates turning into rivals in Russia. “Either by us or someone else. If there’s any uncomfortable situation, it seems to be brought up pretty quickly and (we) make a joke about it.
“So I think that having gone through it with playing against ‘Geno’ previously and even playing against ‘Orps’ with Team USA, that’s just something we understand. It’s all part of it. It’s a little different when you’re walking in the athletes’ village and you’re looking at your teammate walking by and he’s on a different team. It’s a little weird, but that being said, we all know that’s part of it and try to have some fun with it through the year. But when we get there, we all know we’ve got to represent our team.”
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