GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Cleveland Indians spent Friday morning doing drills and taking batting practice before knocking off early for a charity golf tournament in the afternoon. But for a few anxious moments in between, new closer John Axford’s mind was strictly on ice hockey.
Axford and catcher Luke Carlin, both native Canadians, stood in front of the clubhouse TV and sweated out the final moments of Team Canada’s 1-0 victory over the U.S. men in the Olympic semifinals in Sochi, Russia. They exchanged high-fives and Axford joked, "Sorry, America" to his fellow teammates on his way back to his locker.
Axford, from Ontario, isn't shy about expressing his nationalistic rooting interests, and that’s made for some lively banter and trash talk in the Cleveland clubhouse. Outfielder Jeff Francoeur mercilessly ribbed Axford when the U.S. women were up 2-0 and on the verge of winning a gold medal Thursday. After Canada rallied to win 3-2 in overtime, Francoeur went out of his way to avoid Axford.
On Thursday, Axford wore a maple leaf T-shirt to the park. On Friday, he hung a black "Team Canada" jersey from his locker stall and wore red-and-white sneakers. As Team Canada prepares to take on Sweden in the final Sunday, he plans to stick with the program.
"You've got to be proud of your country," Axford said. "I've been wearing Canadian gear, so I might just have to bust out this jersey again for Sunday. You don’t want to repeat wardrobes too many times, but for the Olympics, it’s OK."