For nine New York Rangers players, the recently concluded Olympic "break" meant cramming up to eight games in 11 days in Torino. That's not exactly a vacation, even if you do get to come home with both a medal and memories that will last a lifetime.
For 14 other members of the Rangers' active roster, the Olympic break really was a break. After beating the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Feb. 11 for their sixth straight win, these Blueshirts players went their separate ways until the NHL allowed teams to re-open to their respective training facilities on Feb. 22. Since then, they have been back at Madison Square Garden Training Center in Tarrytown, preparing for the 24 remaining regular-season games and the final push for the playoffs.
Before they went back to work, however, these 14 had plenty of time to themselves. And if you think they watched tons of Olympic action on television, you would probably be overestimating their appetite for international hockey.
A quick survey of 10 non-Olympic Rangers at the training center on Saturday found that all had watched some of the Olympics, but very few had seen an entire game until the medal round began last Wednesday. That's not to say they weren't interested in what was going on, because all were keenly aware of their teammates' success in Torino. Yet given some time off from a grueling NHL season, a break from hockey was definitely in order.
Six of the 10 Rangers surveyed said they sought warmer weather during their time away from the team, with three going down to Florida. This group included Blair Betts, Jason Strudwick and Dominic Moore, who began his break by remaining in Toronto to spend time with family and friends.
Kevin Weekes, the winning goalie on Feb. 11 in Toronto, also remained behind after the game to catch up with people in his hometown. He then traveled to Barbados, where many of his family members live.
Jed Ortmeyer headed for Southern California, and Petr Sykora traveled with his wife to the Cayman Islands. Although he enjoyed his chance to relax, Sykora could relate to what his Olympic teammates were going through, since he was a member of the 2002 Czech Olympic team.
While their teammates went for warm weather, Ryan Hollweg and Colton Orr headed north for the much colder climate of Western Canada.
Hollweg returned to the Vancouver area, where he spent his later teen-age years. Although he was born and raised in a Los Angeles suburb, Hollweg has dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship because his mother is from Vancouver. His trip back there was a rare mid-season chance to visit with family and friends.
Orr returned to his hometown of Winnipeg and he worked on arrangements for his wedding, which will take place in that city this summer. He also did some promotional work for the local branch of the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation.
Unlike teammates who hit the road during their time away from hockey, Michael Nylander and Jason Ward said they were perfectly happy to remain home with their families in the New York area.
Nylander, a two-time Swedish Olympian playing his first season in the Big Apple, said one of the highlights of his time off was a chance to take his family to the theater.
The most adventurous Olympic breaker was likely Ortmeyer. The Nebraska native, who went to college in Michigan, didn't just go to California to enjoy good weather. He also went there to learn how to surf, and couldn't even watch any hockey, because the place where he and his friends stayed didn't have a TV.
It wasn't the Olympics, but Ortmeyer said riding the Pacific Ocean waves on a surfboard was a sports thrill he can't wait to experience again.
"I signed up for a lot of (surfing) lessons, but I was having so much fun that I chose not to use them up," said Ortmeyer. "I'll use them the next time I'm there."