DETROIT - With the television in the Red Wings’ dressing room broadcasting the 2014 Winter Games Saturday afternoon, it was too much for Tomas Jurco to bear, his first Olympic experience still fresh in his mind.
“It’s hard for me to watch it right now on TV and to think I was there a few days ago,” Jurco said. “Unfortunately we didn’t really do well.”
Jurco and Tomas Tatar represented Slovakia at the Olympics, but the Czech Republic eliminated their team from the tournament’s qualification round. Through four games, the two Wings forwards were the only players to score for Slovakia, but that did little to lessen the disappointment they felt by leaving Sochi without a single victory.
“We kind of let down our people back home so I feel bad,” Tatar said. “We were expected to be at least in the quarterfinals but we just couldn’t time it well. We came there and we didn’t really score a goal, we have lots of trouble. It was just kind of bad timing. It’s kind of hard to time all these things at one time in tournament, Olympics are such a short thing. I felt bad we didn’t make it to the quarterfinals and obviously people home were a little upset about it.”
Despite their country’s early exit, the two forwards had an extraordinary experience at their first Olympics, which didn’t include any of the horror stories that circulated the Internet before their arrival.
“Hockey was great, obviously,” Jurco said. “It’s best level you can play with best players in the world. It was great and I was really impressed, you know all that stuff that was on Twitter and around the Internet about how bad it was in Russia. It wasn’t like that. It was beautiful, village was beautiful. It wasn’t brown water or anything, everything was like it should be and it was really nice. The weather was good.”
Tatar didn’t venture to watch any other Olympic competitions, but thoroughly enjoyed the Olympic Village and being able to mingle with some of the best athletes in the world.
“Probably like the village where we hang out with all the athletes,” Tatar said of his favorite Olympic memory. “It was kind of nice to see and be around the other people too and play in such a big tournament like the Olympics. Just to be with everybody there was kind of fun.”
And not for one moment did the forward question his safety. There was a lot of speculation about the security in Russia prior to the Olympics, but Tatar was more surprised about the country’s impressive facilities than its ability to protect the athletes and visitors.
“I was expecting nothing’s going to happen because I know Russia, it would be kind of embarrassing for a country if something would happen so everything was really, really nice,” Tatar said. “I was so surprised at how they build it, too. They were telling me there was nothing there eight years ago so now it’s like all built up, it really was beautiful there. It was really safe, you could see there were lots of security guards around and they were just trying to make sure nothing’s going to happen.”
With their first Olympic experiences now in the past, it’s hard not to look ahead four years from now to the Winter Games in South Korea, especially after a disappointing exit to the tournament. While Tatar acknowledges that the NHL may not send its players to future Olympics, he believes that with one tournament under his belt, he could be more confident and effective in the future.
“It was a good experience now, maybe next time I will play with more confidence there,” Tatar said. “I saw how everything’s going on there so now I will be kind of ready for if there’s going to be the next Olympics. I know now the stuff how everything is working there so I will come more experienced guy than when I came there the first time.”
INJURY UPDATE: Stephen Weiss will not participate in a one-game conditioning stint with the Grand Rapids Griffins on Sunday. Instead, the center will continue practicing with the Wings while recovering from a sports hernia.
“I think just talking to the trainers, I practiced twice last week with the Whalers and three times with the guys, so I’m starting to feel really good but it hasn’t been that much practice time,” Weiss said. “First day with some contact today, just start ramping that up tomorrow and Monday and see what happens next week.”
Weiss would still like to play at least one game with the Griffins before rejoining Detroit’s lineup, and is still targeting the Wings’ Feb. 26 matchup against Montreal as his return date.
“I think so. Yeah, that’s what we’re shooting for,” Weiss said. “Obviously, that’s not going to be my decision. I might still have to play a game or two down there next week. By then I’ll be more ready to play a game.”
SIMILAR SURGERY: Henrik Zetterberg isn’t the only Wings player to have a discectomy during his professional career. Forward Todd Bertuzzi and defenseman Kyle Quincey also underwent the surgery, and Quincey assumes his procedure was similar to the one performed on the Wings’ captain to repair his herniated disk.
“It was the best thing that I’ve ever done so I felt amazing right afterwards and hopefully he feels the same way that I did and his pain is gone,” said Quincey, who had a discectomy in 2009. “It’s a quicker rehab than people think. It’s not an ACL. The most important thing is that his pain is gone and I’ve been through all of that and I just wish him all the best. … I played with it for two years and then I went to LA and got it fixed.”