The day before, the other players practiced in the morning before the Canada-U.S.A. game began. The game viewing turned out to be a family affair as many players brought their kids to the rink and watched part of the game at the practice facility.
“I watched the first period here and then at home with my wife and son,” center Manny Malhotra said.
The hype surrounding the game led to an unprecedented 17.6 rating on television and even the pros were just as enthralled in the drama.
“It was huge,” Malhotra said. “It met every expectation. It justifies our talk about hockey and our passion for the game.”
“It was exciting for hockey,” forward Jed Ortmeyer said. “The U.S. has a lot of reasons to be proud.”
The Americans defied the odds and won the silver medal. And while they rallied from a 2-0 deficit to send the game into overtime, they respect the country that invented the game.
“There are so many other sports here,” said Ortmeyer, a native of Omaha, Neb. “Canada has so much depth and the superstars. It will be a while to catch up.”
Many sjsharks.com readers will remember Scott Nichol taking grief from his young son (an American) when the United States captured the World Junior title. For this Olympic gold medal game, it appears the elder Nichol did some work to make sure his son rooted for the “right” team.
“I brainwashed him,” said Nichol of having his oldest root for Canada. “He was all about Canada. He came in yesterday and all the kids were rooting for Canada. He’s only six so I can manipulate him pretty good.”
IT’S ALL ABOUT “SID THE KID”
Appropriately, Pittsburgh forward Sidney Crosby scored the gold medal-winning goal in overtime. After all, Crosby had been anointed Canada’s hockey icon for years before his NHL debut.
“It’s almost like it couldn’t have happened to anybody else,” Nichol said. “He’s a rock star already in Canada.”
Did the Olympic Break come at the right time? The Sharks enter tomorrow’s game against New Jersey with 20 games remaining in the regular season. And since more than two-thirds of the team got a break, Malhotra said the rest will benefit everyone.
“It’s huge, especially in the Olympic year,” Malhotra said. “The schedule is so condensed. Now there’s time to heal. We’re coming back excited and ready to go.”
WINNING HELPED THE AMERICANS
Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov noted the United States did a great job in the preliminary round to set themselves up for a long run by beating Canada in the preliminary round.
“If we (Russians) beat Slovakia, we probably get the (top seed),” Nabokov said. “Once you start facing the top teams, it’s anybody’s game. They (the Canadians) were coming like crazy.”
Nabokov returned to San Jose after Russia lost to Canada late last week. During today’s post-practice presser, Nabokov was asked about the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
“Does the tournament being in Russia make me want it more? Probably,” Nabokov said.
BEING HIGH-TECH IN SILICON VALLEY
Defenseman Niclas Wallin, who was acquired by the Sharks from Carolina before the Olympic Break, has made the move to the Bay Area. But he’s the only one in San Jose as he has three school-age children still attending school in North Carolina.
“I can’t do that to them,” Wallin said. “When you walk into a (new locker room), you’re nervous. They would have a tougher time in a new classroom than me in a new locker room.
In a tough bit of irony, Spring Break for Wallin’s kids will be when the Sharks are on the road, preventing a mini-reunion.
“With technology and Skype,” Wallin said, “we’ll stay in touch.”.
FROM BEHIND THE BENCH
Coach Todd McLellan was impressed with all of his players who took part in the Olympics.
“I thought they all did an admirable job,” McLellan said. “The four Canadians got what they wanted.”
Even though Pavelski didn’t win the gold, McLellan said he’ll have some strong memories of Vancouver.
“When he talks to his kids later in life, he’ll probably tell them he was on the ice for the tying goal,” McLellan said.
McLellan said the gold medal winners came away with some valuable experience.
“They were thrown in an immense pressure situation and found a way to win,” he said. “No jut being on the team, but contributing. They won in one of the most pressure packed situations they can be in.”
The Sharks will be without defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic
a little longer with a lower body injury that caused him to miss eight games before the Olympic Break.
“He won’t start now, but our goal, and his, is to get back with enough games to feel confident heading into the playoffs,” McLellan said. “Ultimately mother nature will decide that (when he gets back).”
Malhotra missed five games with a lower body injury before the break as well. “Manny will be fine,” McLellan said.
And the roster could change by Wednesday, as the NHL trading deadline falls at Noon.
The Sharks will play hosts to New Jersey Tuesday night and tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The contest will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.