When Bobby Ryan scored the opening goal of the Olympic men's hockey tournament, it called attention to a theme that has played out in virtually every game between teams with large contingents of NHL players on their rosters.
Ryan's blistering slap shot late in the first period of the game between the United States and Switzerland eluded goalie Jonas Hiller -- a guy Ryan normally calls his teammate on the Anaheim Ducks.
Teammates Turned Enemies stands to be one of the major subplots of the battle to decide Group A between the U.S. and Canada on Sunday.
Martin Brodeur, the starting goalie for the host country, will have to contend with New Jersey Devils teammates Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner trying to put pucks past him. Instead of having Brooks Orpik to watch his back, Sidney Crosby may be battling his Pittsburgh Penguins teammate in the corner for the puck. And Patrick Kane
of the Chicago Blackhawks will have a triumvirate of guys he's used to sharing a locker room with on the opposing side in Jonathan Toews
, Duncan Keith
and Brent Seabrook
Here's what some of the players had to say about scratching and clawing against guys who normally wear the same uniform: Anaheim Ducks -- Bobby Ryan and Ryan Whitney (USA) vs. Scott Niedermayer, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry (Canada) Ryan:
It'll be interesting. He's one of the best players to ever play. He's always been on my side. So I'm going to look him a little differently (Sunday).
It's going to be a heck of a job trying to contain him when he wants to join and move the puck up the ice. But I'm looking forward to it. We'll talk about it for a long time.
He doesn't really have any weaknesses -- not really. He's dynamic everywhere he is on the ice. He's great at shutting you down as well as killing you when he gets up ice. So when guys ask me about him, I say, “Always know where he is and do your best to try to slow him down. And let's keep him in his end as long as we can.” Niedermayer:
You do get used to it. It's still a little different, just from the circumstances and how quickly it does change. But we're all in the same boat. And I think all hockey players understand that once you get on the ice, it's a tough physical game and those things happen. We're used to it.
That's the game. It is a tough game and I think everybody understands that. I've taken shots from guys that I would consider my friends. Maybe you try to get them back. But that's just part of it. Pittsburgh Penguins -- Brooks Orpik (USA) vs. Sidney Crosby (Canada) Crosby:
It's something I guess we both accept and we've both got to play our games. If there was anything dirty or cheap, I wouldn't expect it. But if there was a hack or a hit or anything, I wouldn't hold it against him. We're playing desperate games here and that's his role and I don't expect him to let me skate freely out there.
So that's the expectation and we both respect that that's the way it is.
I always see these games as being bigger than individual guys. When you're talking about playing for your country and doing whatever it takes, it doesn't matter who's on the other team. It doesn't matter if you've got 15 guys from your team over there. Chicago Blackhawks -- Patrick Kane (USA) vs. Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook (Canada) Kane:
Not too much needs to be said. It's all business now. At the same time, it's going to be interesting playing against guys like Keith, Seabrook and Toews.
The biggest thing for me has been watching (defense partners) Dunc and Sea the last couple of years. They obviously have certain plays they like to do. And I've watched for a while. So hopefully I can pick up a couple of their tendencies and try to take advantage. Toews:
A lot of people have been asking me that same question for a while now. We've played against each other at different levels before and this will be something new. There are two good teams going head-to-head against one another tomorrow and that's the important thing, but it will be a lot of fun to see another teammate on the ice. I never really joked around about it with Kaner that much, but after whatever happens tomorrow down the road their definitely will be bragging rights I guess. New Jersey Devils -- Zach Parise, Jamie Langenbrunner (USA) vs. Martin Brodeur (Canada) Brodeur:
"When you face teams that have every player in the NHL you're going to have some connections. It's always been like that, you will face some of your teammates. It's no different than before, but right now I think it's on a bigger scale. Canada brings more of it than maybe when we're in Italy or somewhere else, but don't forget we played for the gold medal against the Americans and we had friends on the other side.
It's fun for everybody to be a part of this. It's one more week of hockey and after that we'll all be buddies again, but we're going to play hard for our own country. Parise:
I'm interested to hear what the players who play against Marty have to say. I play against him in practice every day. But practice is a different situation. I can give some pointers, but Marty knows where I like to shoot too. So I don't think there's much of an advantage. Langenbrunner:
I think we're all competitors. We could be out golfing and we want to get the best of each other. We're out in practice and we want to get the best of each other. It's not that you lose any respect for him or the friendship goes away or anything like that. But we like to compete. We like to win.
I think you're going to see that with all the guys. There are lots of guys on our team who have NHL teammates over there and you're going to want to get the best of them and have the bragging rights going forward.
The game happens pretty fast. It's not too many times that things happen exactly the same. So it's not like baseball, where you have time to prepare for every pitch and get those type of tendencies. Shots rarely come from the exact same place or the exact same way. So I don't think you can prepare for that the same way.