Ten Red Wings Headed to Sochi Games

In February, Sochi, Russia, will be hosting the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. The ice hockey competition has once again placed marvelous teams together with a compilation of the best NHL players representing their homeland.

The Detroit Red Wings have ten players going to the games, six of which are playing for Sweden, two for Slovakia, one for Russia and one for the United States.

Head coach Mike Babcock and general manager Ken Holland will also be a part of the festivities, as they will represent Canada. Babcock will be the head coach for the Canadians and will be competing against some of the Wings’ best within the Olympic tournament.

Babcock is currently in his eighth season as the head coach of the Detroit Red Wings and has an impressive track record. Over his first seven seasons behind the bench, he has a 376-170-76 regular season record, which includes a 163-92-32 road record, the best in the NHL.

As all great head coaches, Babcock believes in thinking about ‘the now,’ even when it comes to the Olympics. His captain, Henrik Zetterberg, was recently named the captain of Team Sweden, but has also been injured on and off for most of December. Alongside Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk was also named captain for Team Russia, but is undergoing the same consistency of medical issues.

“Obviously, we think it’s a big part of what we’ve got going on here,” Babcock said of his team’s veteran leadership.

“Now obviously we’d like to get them all back and playing and all of those things, but in the meantime it’s a great honor for (Datsyuk) and for Z.”

Henrik Zetterberg has competed in three Olympics, accumulating four goals and three assists between the 2002, 2006 and 2010 Winter Games. For the Red Wings this season, the captain has played in 36 games with 14 goals and 22 assists and a plus-13 rating.

“This will be my fourth Olympics and the other three have been unreal experiences,” Zetterberg said.

“You just go there and play for your country and it’s not just hockey. You’re part of a group with other athletes and you experience their successes and their failures and their preparations and it’s a great two weeks. I’m looking forward to this one just as much as I did the past ones. It’s been a few tough defeats and we won the gold in Turin (2006), so I’ve been through it all and hopefully we can get another gold.”

Although, Pavel Datsyuk will be making his third visit to the Olympic Games, the 2014 Winter Games will be special. Though being named captain of Team Russia is an honor, competing in Sochi, Russia, is the most extremely special to the Russian star.

“It’s an honor, humbled to represent Russian team, especially in hometown, home country,” Datsyuk said.

“Lots of pressure for us, but so happy.”

Pavel Datsyuk was born in Sverdlovsk, Russia, and now will be making his way back to add to his legacy for the Russian Olympic team. Between 2002, 2006 and 2008, Datsyuk has played in 18 career Olympic games and has accumulated three goals and 11 assists.

“Well I think it’s a high testament for himself,” Red Wing teammate Brendan Smith said.

“I mean the Russian team is amazing. If you think of all those guys, I think you could find at least three real big candidates so it’s pretty impressive that he got named it. He’s the leader in our room a lot and he’s always showing by example. I think even if he gets speak his own language he’d be even a more vocal player for that team so it makes more sense that he’d be captain.”

Although Brendan Smith is not among Datsyuk’s teammates competing in the 2014 Sochi Games, many other Wings will join Datsyuk and Zetterberg to represent their own countries.

Defensemen Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericcson, along with forwards Johan Franzen and Daniel Alfredsson will join Zetterberg on Team Sweden. In net, Jonas Gustavsson will compete in both his second Games and potentially, his second game played.

Gustavsson has improved in both ice time and fundamentals since his last encounter with the Olympic Games in 2010. Jonas had a career-low overall goals against average in 2010-2011 with 3.29. The two front numbers have flip-flopped and the Red Wings’ goaltender currently has a 2.39 GAA and a .914 save percentage this season.

Daniel Alfredsson is the sixth Swedish Red Wing that has found his way on the roster for the fifth time. Alfredsson has compiled 11 goals, 12 assists and a plus-13 rating at the Olympic games.

Tomas Jurco and Tomas Tatar, who have had break-out seasons for the Red Wings, will be representing their home country of Slovakia. The two youngsters have stepped up with quick development both in size and speed. Combined with a lengthy injury list and a struggle in production, Jurco and Tatar have contributed to the success that the Wings have had this season.

The tenth Red Wing that was named an Olympian was starting goaltender, Jimmy Howard. Howard has struggled for most of the season, contributing to inconsistency for the Red Wings overall standing amongst the National Hockey League. Since the turn of the year, the goaltender vowed to and has been making improvements on both his positioning in the net and his mental stability on and off the ice. As any other player, Howard is gracious and determined to wear the USA sweater with pride and represent it well in the games.

“To get to wear the USA sweater, it is such a tremendous honor,” Howard said.

“The respect that comes with it is second to none.”

Howard is currently 9-11-8 with a 2.61 GAA and .916 save percentage this season. This will be his first trip to the Olympics.

The 2014 Sochi Olympic Games will be both entertaining and historic. The games are set to begin on Thursday, February 6 and run through Sunday, February 23.

The ice hockey competition will begin February 12, with Sweden vs. Czech Republic and Latvia vs. Switzerland, both beginning at 12 p.m.

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Information from the Detroit Red Wings was used in this report.

For more information on the Detroit Red Wings and NHL hockey from analysts and journalists at Michigan State University – tune into Octopi Hockeytown podcasts and embrace the Spartan debate at www.impact89fm.org/sports.

Austin Goodman is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.