Canada hasn’t won an Olympic gold medal in men’s ice hockey outside of North America since 1952, but the the larger international ice surface won’t be a valid excuse if the defending champions fail to repeat, according to Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster Don Cherry.
“We have a good team,” Cherry told Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun, referring to the Canadian men’s team. “I know everyone’s putting pressure on the Russians to win and if they lose it will be ‘Ovechkin lost.’ That’s the way it goes when you’re at home. But we’re doing well. We should win. If we don’t do well the whole country will be depressed.
“We should be depressed. We expect gold. Silver is no good. We’re winners. That’s what we do. If we don’t get gold, it’s a disaster.”
The defending gold medalists are usually in the spotlight at the Winter Olympics, but because Russia is dealing with immense pressure to end its 20-plus year gold medal drought on home soil and the United States is facing high expectations of its own after winning silver in Vancouver, Canada is in the unfamiliar position of being able to focus and not deal with a ton of distractions.
It would be quite disappointing for Canadian fans if their team didn’t bring home the gold, but given the tournament’s impressive depth — as many as seven teams have a chance to medal — a top-four finish wouldn’t be a colossal disaster.
The biggest obstacle for Canada in retaining its gold could be the host nation. Russia was embarrassed in a 7-3 defeat to the Canadians in the quarterfinals of the 2010 Vancouver Games, and it’s a loss the Russian players haven’t forgotten. There are many players from the 2010 squad who will represent Russia in Sochi, including Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, and payback is likely on their mind.
Canada begins its gold medal quest Thursday against Norway in the preliminary round.