By Scott Billeck – @scottbilleck
The Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia have captivated many around the world over the past week. And while the Winnipeg Jets returned to work on Wednesday, it was evident that some of the players were very much tuned into the events half a world away.
While some players chatted about the other sports they have taken in during the Games, most were more concerned with how the hockey tournament, within the Games themselves, was playing out.
“We got a lot of Canadians and a lot of Americans in this room so it should make for a fun game to watch…it’s going to be a good rematch,” said Jets’ captain Andrew Ladd. “It is not an easy tournament to win, I think everyone knows that. It is such a different type of tournament. But in the end you have to keep pushing and pushing and come out on top; in the end (Canada) won and that’s all that matters.”
Players said they were surprised by the early exit of hosts Russia, who fell to a 3-1 defeat early on Wednesday morning to Finland.
“I was pretty surprised that Finland took them out, but Finland is another team that is having a pretty sneaky-good tournament too,” said Bryan Little.
“That was a big deal, they have great players,” added Jets head coach Paul Maurice, who coached in Russia during the 2012-13 KHL season. “They will take this very, very hard. There is so much more to this than a game over there, it is where their country is and how far they have progressed and they want to be a world power in hockey. That is a tough loss for them.”
Because of the immense interest, Maurice pushed back Friday’s 11 am practice until after the conclusion of the Canada-USA semi-final game. It’s mandatory for players to attend, though Maurice says he doubts his squad will want to miss it.
“I am looking forward to that. We moved practice so we can get together and watch that as a team,” Maurice stated. “It is a big deal here, so we want to respect that and enjoy it and I am looking forward to seeing who gets all the cheers in this game.
“At the end of the day, hockey events are what we are all about, right? This is a big game, Canada and the US in the Olympics and we got a guy on the US team. It is about respecting the game and where we’re at.”
Scott’s Scribbles: Evander Kane declared himself “fully healed” today from a hand infection that has plagued him for the better part of a month… The Jets long-term infirmary is empty with the return of Matt Halischuk and Jim Slater. Paul Maurice will have his work cut out for himself trying to decide who plays and who sits up in the press box… Toby Enstrom missed practice Wednesday with a lower-body injury that “is not overly serious; would have played today if there was a game”… Devin Setoguchi also missed practice due to a bursa sac issue on his elbow. Maurice doesn’t think it will be much of a problem, making sure it doesn’t get infected.