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What they're saying about Olympic hockey

by Greg Inglis
TSN's Bob McKenzie appropriately sums up Wednesday's action at Canada Hockey House as "retro day," with the spotlight on 39-year-old Teemu Selanne of Finland and former Hart Trophy winners Jaromir Jagr of the Czech Republic, who turned 38 on Monday, and Peter Forsberg of Sweden, 36.

A note on each of these greats:

* Wednesday night's clash between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, in which the Czechs emerged with 3-1 victory, is garnering rave reviews.

"It was a thrilling, nonstop celebration of hockey amid a festive atmosphere that felt like a holiday in Prague or Bratislava, and it provided a glimpse of why this Olympic tournament is expected to be the greatest in the history of the game," wrote Jeff Z. Klein in the New York Times.

"The biggest, most fabulous star of the show was Jaromir Jagr, the former NHL great and now the marquee name for the Russian KHL, who dazzled like he did in his youth, even though he has just turned 38. Jagr scored the go-ahead goal on a breakaway and set up the insurance goal. He swooped hawk-like across the ice, stole the puck and created constant goalmouth havoc on almost every shift. He was terrific from the start of the game, even though he claimed that he was a little overwhelmed by the high level of competition. 'It was hard making the adjustment,' he said. 'In the first period I felt like a soldier in Iraq. I didn't know where the shots were coming from. It was tough, but I survived.'"

* Selanne tied the all-time Olympic scoring record with his 36th point, a secondary assist on Olli Jokinen's game-opening goal in Finland's 5-1 victory over Belarus. Selanne joined Czechoslovakia's Vlastimil Bubnik, Russia's Valeri Kharlamov and Canada's Harry Watson at the top of the Olympic scoring chart.

The five-time Olympian had an interesting way to express his team's dark-horse status in the tournament: "We have a lot of good players, good chemistry and good roles. Everybody's doing their job as good as we can and we get great goaltending every night," Selanne said. "Those things give us a chance to win every night. Nobody expected we're going to challenge the big teams, but you never know. We all come from same league and drink same beer."

* Reuters notes that Forsberg, already a member of the elite "Triple Gold Club" for winning a Stanley Cup, Olympic gold medal and World Championship, would become the first of that group to become a three-time Olympic gold medalist if Sweden take the top prize.

Speaking after Sweden's 2-0 win over Germany, Forsberg clearly is savoring his latest Olympic experience: "It's definitely great to be back playing against the best players in the world," he said. "I feel OK, it's a work in progress. ... But at this stage of my career I don't think I'm ever going to be really healthy again, so I'm just going to do my best and see how it goes. I don't know what I'm doing here but I'm still battling. Anytime you get the chance to play in an Olympics it's the best thing you can do."

* The Toronto Star's Damien Cox notes the date of Thursday's preliminary-round game against Switzerland is not lost on Team Canada.

"We have a lot of good players, good chemistry and good roles. Everybody's doing their job as good as we can and we get great goaltending every night. Those things give us a chance to win every night. Nobody expected we're going to challenge the big teams, but you never know. We all come from same league and drink same beer."
-- Finland's Teemu Selanne

"When the puck is dropped for Thursday's Canada-Swiss game, it'll be four years to the day since Martin Gerber delivered his 'Shroud of Turin' goaltending performance, making 49 saves at the Torino Esposizione to deliver one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history by a 2-0 score." Cox writes that Joe Thornton, one of seven holdovers from the team that lost to Switzerland in 2006, has endured a lot of friendly ribbing since.

"Thornton, you'll recall, played for Davos in the Swiss league during the NHL lockout. He learned to ski during that championship season, and even met his future wife, Tabea. The down side, however, is that ever since Canada was shut out by Switzerland at the 2006 Winter Olympics Thornton's Swiss buddies have taken great joy in frequently reminding him of it. 'You know, saying stuff like how could our little country of eight million people beat a powerhouse like Canada with 30 million people,' laughed Thornton on Wednesday. 'Well, it'll never happen again.'"
None of this comes as a surprise to the Swiss team. Said defenseman Mark Streit: "It's going to be tougher than four years ago, because they remember what happened. They have a better team this year."

Red Wings General Manager and Team Canada executive Ken Holland lays out the game plan today against Switzerland in his Olympic report to the Detroit Free Press: "They have a real good goaltender in Jonas Hiller, who plays for Anaheim. He's the key to their team. We need to get traffic in front of him. I thought the USA team did a good job of that in its win over Switzerland, so we need to get traffic in front of Hiller."

* Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail on the ties between Canada's Jarome Iginla and Switzerland's Hnat Domenichelli:

"They were both born in Edmonton and knew each other as far back as their bantam hockey days, Hnat Domenichelli playing for the Edmonton Maple Leafs, Jarome Iginla for St. Albert. They made their way through junior hockey together and for a couple of years, played professionally with the Calgary Flames too. In between, they were also linemates on Canada's 1996 world junior championship team -- and now, some 14 years later, they will line up on opposite sides. ... That Dominichelli switched sides can be traced back to his decision to leave the NHL the year before the lockout in 2004 to try his luck in Switzerland. Once there, he married and started a family. This summer, he finally received his Swiss passport, permitting him to play for his adopted country."

* The Vancouver Sun's Miro Cernetig has the goods on one of the worst-kept secrets in town: the Canada's men's team dinner at Daniel Boulud's DB Bistro Moderne. Boulud flew in from New York to oversee the menu, an "all-you-can-eat" affair that offered, in part, canapes of Alsatian tarte flambe with house-cured bacon and fromage blanc; Mediterranean sea bass cooked in a salt crust and white lemongrass butter; and caramel apple spice cake with whisky butter sauce and vanilla ice cream. Plus, as one would expect, lots of red meat. "They like steak, they're real boys," said Boulud.

Cernetig could only conclude, "I knew hockey players were pretty good dressers. I never dreamed they were such foodies."

* As each day brings us closer to a potential shootout to determine Olympic playoff seedings and medals, here are the leaders in career NHL shootout save percentage among the 2010 Olympic goaltenders (minimum 20 attempts):

1. Semyon Varlamov, Russia (.850, 17 saves in 20 attempts)
2. Jaroslav Halak, Slovakia (.800, 20 saves in 25 attempts)
3. Henrik Lundqvist, Sweden (.751, 139 saves in 185 attempts)
4. Jonas Hiller, Switzerland (.746, 47 saves in 63 attempts)
5. Marc-Andre Fleury, Canada (.744, 64 saves in 86 attempts)

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