It’s hard to believe it’s almost been four years since Sidney Crosby and Team Canada knocked off Team USA for the gold medal in the Vancouver Olympics. With the National Hockey League and the union reaching a deal earlier this week, Crosby will be looking add a second straight Olympic gold to his already impressive resume.
“It’s gone by really fast,” said Crosby. “Obviously with injuries and stuff like that too, it wasn’t like there has been three full hockey seasons to look back on.”
Even though time seems to have gone by quickly, coming to a conclusion to allow NHL players to participate in the 2014 Olympic Games took longer than expected. However, that hasn’t dampened the excitement for Crosby.
“It was just kind of a matter of time,” said Crosby. “Working out logistics with it being a little bit further away in Russia, I’m sure there was a little bit more work to do, but I’m glad that we’re going. I’m obviously excited to start the process.”
It’s a process that will present many challenges throughout the course of the NHL season too. One of the biggest challenges for the players will be a condensed NHL schedule – especially after a shortened offseason.
“Knowing that there’s going to be an Olympic training camp, you’re going to begin that process with the schedule,” noted Crosby. “You find out pretty quickly that an Olympic year schedule is a little more condensed, a little more intense than a typical year.”
The NHL will play a full 82-game regular season but will take a 20-day break for the Olympics, starting on February 9 and lasting until February 26.
Another challenge that awaits Crosby is adapting his game to the size of the rink.
The ice in Sochi will be 15% larger than the rinks were in Vancouver. The Olympic rink will be the international-sized standard, 60×30 meters, which makes for a different style of game.
The rink is Sochi will be 15 feet wider than what NHL players will be accustomed to and the neutral zone will be eight-feet larger as well.
“It’s definitely a different game. It’s a little bit more of a puck possession game,” added Crosby. “There’s a lot more time with the puck. I think making decisions and things like that, the way you play, your systems, there’s definitely going to be an adjustment there. I think speed will be even more important with that big ice and obviously physical play is always important, but I think with the bigger ice it’ll be a little tougher to establish that. I think speed and skill are going to be a big part of the game.”
Regardless of rink size, Crosby has plenty of international experience to draw from. Crosby started his international play as the youngest player for Team Canada at the 2003 U-18 Junior World Cup having turned 16 years old just before the tournament. Team Canada lost in the bronze medal game, but Crosby scored four goals and six points over a five game span. He also competed in the 2004 and 2005 World Junior Championships. Crosby was an alternate captain for the 2006 World Championships for Team Canada.
Balancing an NHL and Olympic schedule will not be an easy task, especially for Crosby, who has his eyes set on winning both Olympic Gold and the Stanley Cup for the second time in his career.
“You want to go there and find a way to win gold,” said Crosby.
For a player and a country with such high expectations, anything less than winning it all will be in vein.