As the Olympic torch was extinguished on Sunday night in Sochi, the Nashville Predators welcomed home four members of their organization as defensemen Roman Josi (Switzerland) and Shea Weber (Canada), forward Simon Moser (Switzerland), and Head Equipment Manager Pete Rogers (United States) all returned to the Music City.
“It was a great experience over there,” Josi said. “The village was great, the Russians were really friendly, the food was good, everything was really good. It was definitely a great experience for me.”
For Josi, the 2014 Swiss squad was his second shot at the Olympics after missing out on the 2010 Games due to injury.
“It’s really the best players in the world there,” Josi said. “If you watched the games, I think every game was close, there weren’t many games that were blowouts. Every game we played was a hard game. I think it is really good for hockey. You can see it in the tournament, there are no easy teams anymore.”
The 6-1, 192-pound defenseman, who coincidentally paired with Vancouver’s Yannick Weber for most of the tournament, was held scoreless in Switzerland’s four games, but recorded six shots on goal and averaged 21:03 of ice time.
Moser, who was also playing in his first Olympics, notched his only point of the tournament when he scored the game-winning goal with less than seven seconds remaining in Switzerland’s opening game against Latvia.
“It was a big goal for us because we wanted to have a good start to the tournament,” Moser said. “For me, it was a big goal because it happened at the Olympics. It was a great feeling.”
The Bern, Switzerland native finished the tournament with one goal, two penalty minutes and a +1 rating, while averaging 15:11 of ice time.
“It was a great experience all around,” Moser said. “The tournament didn’t end up like we wanted, so it was kind of weird ending for us.”
The Sochi Olympics were the experience of a lifetime for both Josi and Moser, but their run abruptly ended with a loss to Latvia in the qualification round; a disappointing end after the Swiss came in with heightened expectations following a silver medal showing at 2013 World Championship.
“I think we played really well defensively, and (Jonas) Hiller was really good in net,” Josi said. “The first few games we couldn’t score more than one goal. That was kind of our problem – we just couldn’t score. We played pretty well and we had a lot of chances, we just couldn’t get anything.”
For Rogers, the Preds head equipment guru, the 2014 Games were the second time he’s been called by his country to serve as equipment manager; he served the same capacity for Team USA at the 2006 Games in Torino.
Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile was supposed to join Rogers with the Red, White and Blue, but his highly publicized injury held him out of the tournament.
The final member of the Preds organization to return to North America is Weber, who is due back later this week with a slightly heavier suitcase than he left with.
The Preds captain and his Canadian brethren captured their second gold medal in as many Olympics after defeating the Swedes, 3-0, on Sunday.
Weber, who also served as an alternate captain for the Canadians, tied for the team lead with six points (3g-3a) in six games en route to the gold medal. In six games, the Sicamous, B.C., native fired 13 shots on goal, posted a +5 rating and led the team in average ice time (21:50). Weber’s six points ranked second among all tournament blueliners (Sweden’s Erik Karlsson (4g-4a-8pts, 6gp)).
Despite his tournament ending early, Josi says he’s proud of his defensive partner, and is expecting the Preds captain to have some choice words for his fellow Preds Olympians upon his return.
“(Shea’s) probably going to talk about it, and we obviously want to congratulate him,” Josi said. “That’s one of biggest accomplishments you can have as a hockey player – winning gold for your country. We’re definitely all proud of him.”
With the 2014 Sochi Games still fresh in their minds, the Preds Olympians now turn their focus to the Tampa Bay Lightning, as they prepare to re-launch their 2013-14 season this Thursday.
“We have until Thursday,” Josi said. “Our last game (at the Olympics) was last Tuesday. I just have to get readjusted to the time. It was a 10-hour difference, so that is the biggest challenge right now. Other than that, I’m excited for the rest of the season.”
With two games in Milwaukee already under his belt since returning from Sochi, Moser is ready to continue his quest to become a full-time NHLer.
“I was tired when I got back, but I’ve already played two games in Milwaukee,” Moser said. “I’m back in the rhythm and I’m feeling really good right now.”