BOSTON -- And, they’re off.
All NHL players, coaches and managers that will represent their respective countries at the Winter Olympics boarded charter planes Sunday en route to Sochi. The Boston Bruins will be well represented at the Games.
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who missed the final two games before the Olympic break in order to carry his country’s flag during the opening ceremonies, will serve as captain for Slovakia. Forwards Patrice Bergeron (Canada), David Krejci (Czech Republic), Loui Eriksson (Sweden) and goaltender Tuukka Rask (Finland) will also represent their countries.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien will serve as adviser and associate coach, respectively, for Team Canada.
Leading up to the break, the Bruins wanted to stay focused on their tasks at hand, and they were able to accomplish that, finishing 8-1-2 in the last 11 games. After defeating the Ottawa Senators 7-2 Saturday at TD Garden, Boston’s Olympians could finally turn their attention to Sochi. Their non-Olympian teammates were thinking about their 11-day vacation.
This will be the first Olympic competition for Rask.
“I’m looking forward to going there,” he said. “I’ve heard that, despite all the pictures, everything is good for the athletes, so I’m looking forward to it. It’s a great honor playing for your country and with your countrymen. It’s something I haven’t done in my adulthood. I was in World Juniors my last time on the national team, so it’s going to be a new experience for me and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Bergeron was a member of Team Canada’s gold medal team at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. This will be his second time competing at the Winter Games.
“It’s something that’s special to represent your country and to compete on the biggest stage in sports,” Bergeron said. “I’m very happy and fortunate to be a part of that team and representing Canada.”
Bergeron watched the Opening Ceremony on Friday, mainly to see Team Canada but also to see Chara carry the Slovakian flag.
“I saw Slovakia walk out and it was nice to see Zee carrying the flag and I was very proud and happy for him,” Bergeron said.
Since Chara arrived in Sochi early, numerous pictures have surfaced with Olympians tweeting shots taken with the 6-foot-9 hockey player. Bergeron doesn’t think there will be many pictures taken with him.
"Probably not," Bergeron said with a laugh. "I don't draw as much attention as Zee."
Bergeron also joked that of all the Bruins players, he’s the only one not getting a break from Julien.
"That's alright," Bergeron said with a laugh. "At the same time, it's good to have him. I know his approach and it's definitely going to help me adjust quicker to the whole thing."
During the 2010 Winter Games, Canada was the home team, so Bergeron understands the pressure the Russians have going into this tournament.
"There is some added pressure when you are the home team. Russia is the same thing [as Canada], hockey is huge for them and we know they always have a good team and they're going to come out hard and they're going to make sure they try to win,” Bergeron said. “For us, it's about trying to counter that, but on home ice you have high expectations of yourself, so I don't think you should worry about the added pressure. You've just got to go out there and play the game."
This is also the second Olympic invite for Eriksson. He’ll join Sweden a little banged up after taking a high stick to the face during Thursday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues. He missed Friday’s practice (spending the day at the dentist), but was back in the lineup for Saturday’s win over the Senators. He missed a shift in the second period because he started to bleed again and needed the stitches in his upper lip fixed.
After the game, he said he’s excited about Sweden’s chance to win a medal in the coming weeks.
"Yeah, for sure," Eriksson said. "There are a lot of good teams and we have a lot of good players, so we can definitely go far. It's going to be a tough challenge and it's going to be fun."
Each member of the Bruins heading to Sochi on Sunday said they felt honored to be a part of the Olympic Games.
"The whole experience itself is something very special," Bergeron said.
Men's hockey gets under way in Sochi on Wednesday.