CALGARY -- Four years ago, home-ice advantage in Vancouver helped play a role in Canada's Olympic gold. The Canadians won't have that luxury when they try to defend their gold medal in Sochi, Russia, in February.
Though the rivalry between the two countries may not be quite as intense as it once was, Canadian center Jonathan Toews is aware that a trip to Sochi will be a journey into hostile and relatively unfamiliar territory.
"You’re the opponent and the bad guy over there," Toews said Tuesday at Canada's Olym;pic orientation camp. "Nothing will be easy and in Russia you have to expect the unexpected. But for the guys that get to go there will be no excuses.”
“We’re always pretty comfortable and cozy on our home turf, but there’s a special bonding when you go overseas," he added.
In 2010, Canada had the luxury of using the Vancouver Canucks' spacious home dressing room at Rogers Arena. The Canadians played on the familiar NHL-sized ice surface and had a predominantly Canadian crowd behind them.
Those luxuries aren't to be had in Russia.
It will make for a much different experience for defenseman Duncan Keith, who was a member of Canada's gold medal entry four years ago.
"It’s obviously a different country and there are a lot of different things going on," Keith said. "As professional players and hockey players and just people in general we’re all able to adapt to different environments and surroundings and things that maybe aren’t normal for us back here. We’re all able to adapt and make the most of whatever we can, whether it’s a good situation or bad situation."
For Keith, the biggest obstacle standing in the way of the 25 players chosen to duplicate the success Canada had in Vancouver won't come off the ice.
"At the end of the day the biggest challenge is just on the ice winning hockey games," Keith said. "This team isn’t going to try to go there and worry about all those little things.
"It’s about winning hockey games."
And for Canada's team, winning another gold medal.