On Monday, Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray and Team Sweden took a well-deserved break as they prepare to defend their Olympic Gold Medal in the elimination round.
“I think we wanted to start playing well and we did that in the last game,” said Murray referring to Sweden’s shutout victory against Finland. “We played really well and it was nice to get that extra day of rest.”
Murray has represented Sweden in the World Championships, but said the intensity of the Olympics is much greater.
“You can’t even compare the competition level of the two,” said Murray. “Anything can happen in this tournament. There are a lot of great teams and a lot of great goaltenders. The competition level is very high and a lot of the lesser known nations are playing extremely well.”
One big outing by an unknown goaltender can turn a country upside down as Sweden learned against Belarus a few years ago.
“It’s do or die,” said Murray. “You have to be on top of things every game.”
Even with the hectic schedule, there has still been time to enjoy family and the general aura of the Olympics.
“I’m enjoying it,” said Murray. “Vancouver has done a great job of setting everything up. My family (parents and siblings) is here, but I’m not able to watch too many events (in person).”
Murray says the ability to meet with fellow Swedish Olympians in other sports has been nice, even though he hasn’t met many of the medal winners.
“There is not a lot of interaction (with other Olympians),” said Murray. “Mostly in the dining hall is where you meet people. It’s nice talking to the other athletes. You have some small conversations and encourage the ones who are about to compete. All our medal winners are up in Whistler.”
Continuing the legacy of his family is something that Murray takes extreme pride in. His grandfather, Lars Björn, an honored retired defenseman for Tre Kronor has been a constant hero and teacher throughout Murray’s hockey career. Now, his grandfather has been able to lend Murray advice about the international stage of the Olympics.
Growing up with the influence of the 1952 Olympic Bronze medalist and an International Hockey Federation Hall of Fame inductee, drove Murray’s motivation to be just as physical as his grandfather who was nicknamed Lasse; Swedish for “menace.”
“He (Murray’s grandfather) is only worried about us winning,” said Murray. “We’re not going to make the Games anything special. I have to focus on playing, and that’s what he would want me to do.”
The people of Sweden have a lot of pride of their participation in various competitions, but hockey is one of the most popular sports in the country.
“They take a lot of pride in it [hockey] and they want gold, they don’t want anything else” Murray said about his homeland’s hopes for victory.
Murray will use the encouragement of his country to find success in all of his matchups, even the games against his Sharks teammates.
While competing in the Olympics many NHL superstars have to set aside friendships for the honor of their respective countries, but for Murray it’s just another day on the job.
“We’ve done it for years,” Murray said. “Someone is playing against a friend every night during regular season, so it’s not a big deal. You’re always going to play against friends. If they can’t handle you playing them tough, then they’re not your real friend anyhow.”
Just as sure as Murray will take an open hit on a teammate, they will just a sure try to make a move on him to score a goal. It is what will make the next several days so exciting to watch.
SHARKS PRACTICE In an effort to limit distractions and create a seamless transition for players returning from the Olympics, Sharks practices at Sharks Ice at San Jose will be closed to the general public through Sunday, Feb 28. Sharks practices will re-open to the public starting Monday, March 1.