Throughout history, Canadian superstars such as Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky have made significant impacts while playing for their country’s national team. Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby
and Marc-Andre Fleury
are looking forward to the chance to do the same at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Fleury, who is a Quebec native, said. “I’m pretty excited about going there. To be able to represent your country in the Olympics is a huge honor. I’ll try my best and do anything that I can to help the team. It’s an opportunity that doesn’t come often, so I’ll just try to enjoy it and see what it’s like.”
Since the 1920 Olympics held in Antwerp, Belgium, the Canadian hockey team has won seven gold medals, four silver medals and two bronze medals. The team won the gold most recently during the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City with Lemieux as the captain.
Although the thought of the upcoming Olympics undoubtedly creeps into players’ minds from time to time, Crosby said that the best way to prepare for the winter games is to concentrate on doing well in the National Hockey League’s regular season beforehand.
“You want your game to be the best it can be going into the Olympics,” Crosby, who hails from Nova Scotia, said. “The best way to do that is to focus on the here and now, and when the time comes we will be ready to switch gears.”
Despite the fact that the Winter Games are being played in their home country, both players acknowledged that the pressure to win in Canada has always been present regardless of the type of competition.
“That’s kind of what we grow up accepting and understanding,” Crosby said. “The fact is that in Canada, for sure, you want to be that much better. I don’t think you can really put more pressure than there already is. Everyone expects to win, so that’s pretty much it. There’s no real beating around the bush. That’s the way it is.”
Crosby and Fleury even got a sneak-peak of the 2010 host city during their five-game road trip in Canada during the second week of January.
“It was great,” Crosby said. “I couldn’t believe the amount of things that were going on there. They are still working away. I’m sure they will be right until the end.”
With the United States and Russian teams looking to steal some of Canada’s thunder this year, the Canadians, behind the leadership of captain Scott Niedermayer and Crosby, who was named an alternate, will have to turn on the heat to ensure that they get the gold.
“I think there are so many good players around the NHL and around the world,” Fleury said. “Every night will be an important game. We’ll try to get the chemistry together quick and just play as hard as we can and try to win some games.”
“We’ve always looked at Canada and Russia and you look at the U.S. now, and those teams are pretty heavy favorites,” Crosby added. “But that matchup is always going to be talked about, and it goes on for a long time here. That’s always going to be a rivalry, and the way it is today just adds to it.”
Playing against these countries also means that Crosby and Fleury will inevitably be going head-to-head with some of their own teammates on the Penguins, including Russia’s Evgeni Malkin
“Geno has proven for a while now that he can be that guy,” Crosby said. “But you can go down the list on their team of guys who might be game-breakers for sure. You look at Geno and Alex (Ovechkin) and (Alexander) Semin, and the list goes on. They have a lot of dangerous guys. That’s their team, and that’s their makeup. It’s still going to take the team, but at the same time, they have a lot of guys who can do the job.”
But regardless of the outcome of the Olympic games, all of the participating Penguins recognize that competing against each other is just part of the game and that they will return to Pittsburgh with fond memories of the experience to share with the rest of the team.
“I get to see them everyday and play with them everyday,” Fleury said. “It will be weird to see them coming at me and shooting at me. It will be fun though. I’ll make sure to try to make some saves so when I come back, I get the bragging rights.”