DETROIT – The chilling polar vortex that's engulfed Michigan this winter has been more than enough to convince a few Red Wings players to fly south during the Olympic break.
While 10 of their teammates are at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, forward Justin Abdelkader, center Joakim Andersson and defenseman Brendan Smith will take a short break by soaking up some sun south of the border.
“I’m going to go home for like four days and then I’m going to go to Mexico for about five days,” Abdelkader said. “I can’t wait to get some warm weather.”
Andersson had the same idea in mind, and is looking forward to making his first trip to Mexico.
“It’ll be nice, I’ve never been to Mexico,” he said. “It looks nice in the pictures.”
But despite the endless sunshine the players are sure to enjoy, the Olympics will never be far from their minds.
“It’s going to be nice to get away and be with family and then be able to watch everybody at the Olympics, it’s going to be quite an experience,” Smith said. “I just watch the guys, the guys on my team and some of my buddies on other teams like Derek Stepan and (Ryan) McDonagh, to see how they can do at such a big stage like that.”
While Andersson will certainly be watching his teammates compete in the ice hockey tournament, he’ll also enjoy a few other winter sports that he remembers watching as a child in Sweden.
“I like the different skiing, downhill and cross country and all that stuff,” Andersson said. “I mean I like a lot of it and in Sweden we grew up with a lot of the sport, winter sports so it’s always fun with the Olympics no matter if it’s winter or summer.”
The players are also hoping the break will help them rejuvenate for the final, and pivotal, stretch of the season.
“We’ve had a lot of games lately too so it’ll be nice to kind of get refreshed and then come back after the Olympic break for about a month of hockey,” Andersson said.
With games every other night for nearly a two-week stretch in January, a short break is a welcoming sight.
“I think it’s we’ve been gearing up and going pretty much every second night, so to get away and recharge the battery I guess for some people to get healthy will be huge for us,” Smith said.
Not everyone will be traveling during the break, though, as center Riley Sheahan will return to Detroit’s minor-league affiliate in Grand Rapids while his NHL teammates compete in Sochi. Through 16 games with the Wings this season, the 22-year-old has recorded three goals and seven assists.
Returning to the Griffins during the break will allow Sheahan to continue skating and working on his game as the Wings prepare for the last stretch of the regular season that will no doubt include a tight playoff race.
“I think it’d be better for us to keep playing,” Sheahan said.