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Smid, Berra relish Olympic opportunity

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

"Overall I can say it was a dream come true. I’ve dreamt about it since I was little to represent my country at the Olympics. It finally happened and I’m really proud of it.Ladislav Smid

CALGARY, AB -- Both Ladislav Smid and Reto Berra may have returned from the 2014 Sochi Olympics without a medal, but neither came home empty-handed.

“It was an awesome experience,” said Smid, who represented the sixth-place Czech Republic. “Obviously I’m disappointed we lost in the quarterfinals but overall I can say it was a dream come true. I’ve dreamt about it since I was little to represent my country at the Olympics. It finally happened and I’m really proud of it.”

Smid’s Czechs were bounced by the United States, who finished fourth.

Despite a ninth-place finish for Berra’s Switzerland, the 27-year-old goaltender relished the opportunity to serve as back-up.

“It was a great experience,” said Berra, who stopped 30 of 31 shots in his only start in the tournament. “It was really cool for me, first time to be there and see everything. I saw all the sports you normally don’t see. It was great. It was really fun to be with just the Swiss guys to speak Swiss-German for a little bit. It was cool.”

Switzerland was eliminated from medal contention after being upset 3-1 by Latvia in the qualification round. They managed just three goals all tournament before bowing out.

“We played really good defensively,” Berra said. “We didn’t score that much. We had chances and chances. We were playing not bad. We were playing good. Sometimes it’s just like that. What can I say? At the end, especially Latvia, the goalie (Kristers Gudlevskis) was unbelievable. Our guys, I remember, we had no bad chances or bad shots. Sometimes they make really unbelievable saves.”

Despite the early exit, Berra enjoyed his time in Sochi, which included checking out other events and meeting fellow athletes from his native Switzerland.

“You cheer for everything, really for your country there and you’re proud to be for your country,” he said. “You try to go see the other events. It wasn’t that easy. With our accreditation, we could only see hockey, women’s and men’s. The others, you need tickets. It wasn’t that easy, but we cheered and you meet them. It’s really cool.”

Smid too enjoyed fraternizing with his fellow Czechs.

“It’s cool,” the Frydlant, CZE product said. “You see some famous people from other sports and it’s kind of cool. You get to talk to them. It’s a great experience.”

The Czechs advanced to the quarterfinal after beating Slovakia 5-3 in the qualification playoff, but a 5-2 loss to the Americans ended hope of a medal.

The one-and-done format of the tournament was tough, but rewarding for Smid.

“You lose and you go home, so obviously you’re a little bit nervous but at the same time, you don’t want to be too nervous,” he said. “You want to perform well for your country. It was a lot of emotional games but I’m glad I went through it.”

With the pair back in Calgary attention has returned to the Flames, who will host the Los Angeles Kings (7:30 p.m. MST, TSN, Sportsnet 960 The Fan).

“It was good to get back on the ice and get back to NHL habits,” Smid said. “The rink is a little bit smaller here and you’ve got to play the angles differently. It’s good to be back on the ice and get some practice under my belt.”

The adjustment is particularly important for Berra, who could start against the Kings with fellow goalie Karri Ramo nursing a lower body injury sustained at the beginning of February. He has yet to rejoin the team in practice.

But despite spending the past two weeks on Olympic-sized ice, Berra feels right at home in Calgary.

In other words, it’s business as usual after returning from Sochi.

“Right after, after my first practice back here (in Calgary) on the small ice it was alright. It wasn’t bad,” Berra said. “When I arrived in Sochi, the first practice on the big ice again it was a big difference again. I thought it was going to be easy because I played all my life on the big ice. It was a big difference.

“Back here, it isn’t that big (a difference) because I had a couple of practices and just played one game.

"It’s not that big.”

What is, though, is the memories the two will have from their participation at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

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