VANCOUVER, British Columbia | If the potential Olympians on the Washington Capitals’ roster weren’t thinking about the forthcoming games, the large set of Olympic rings in the harbor outside their hotel room windows here was probably a good reminder.
The Caps will play Friday night at General Motors Place against the Vancouver Canucks. That morning will mark 60 days from the start of what could be the greatest tournament in the history of the sport.
“As a hockey fan, I will be really excited. There is going to be so many great players at the Olympics,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “If my wife doesn’t make me go on a trip that doesn’t have a TV, I will be watching them for sure.”
Washington likely will be well-represented in the event. Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin are expected to be on Team Russia, and goaltender Semyon Varlamov could join them. Nicklas Backstrom will be a key figure for Sweden.
If selected, close friends Tomas Fleischmann (Czech Republic) and Milan Jurcina (Slovakia) will face each other in a preliminary-round game. Then there is Mike Green, whose merits for inclusion on Team Canada have produced more debate in his country than any other player.
“Yeah, it is always in the back of your head a little bit. The rosters are coming out soon, and then we’ll see what happens,” Backstrom said. “It is going to be a little weird to play against each other probably, but I am looking forward to it. It is going to be fun.”
Added Varlamov: “I am so excited. I think I have a chance [to make the team], but maybe I don’t have a chance. I hope I get to go.”
Backstrom will see a few of his future teammates Friday against the Canucks. Twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Mikael Samuelsson are likely to be on Tre Kronor - as the Swedish team is known - and defenseman Alex Edler is also a strong possibility.
Canada and Russia are the favorites with their deep pool of stars to choose from, but Backstrom will be playing for the defending champions.
“A little bit [of pressure] maybe, but there are a lot of good teams,” Backstrom said. “Everybody has good teams. It is going to be about one game, and anything can happen.”
Ovechkin, Jurcina and Mike Knuble played in the previous Olympics in Turin, Italy. Knuble said he brought his family with him and took in some speedskating events when he wasn’t suiting up for Team USA.
Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn is a Vancouver native, and he has been able to witness the evolution of the city as it prepares to host the Winter Olympics for the first time.
“Leaving [the hotel] last night and just seeing the big Olympics sign and the rings out in Coal Harbour - I was here in the summer, too, when there was all the construction,” Morrisonn said. “I’ve been down to where the Olympic Village is going to be, and it is pretty spectacular. It is going to be crazy.”
That said, Morrisonn doesn’t think he wants to come home during the break to see it.
“I don’t think so. It will be too crazy, and I just kind of want to relax and stay away from the chaos,” he said. “I’m probably going to go somewhere south, like in the Caribbean - somewhere warm.”