I'm back! Yes, summer vacation is over ... bring on the pucks!
It's time to put the bikini thong away! After a month off, your humble hockey hack is set to resume his NHL media duties for ESPN.com.
And what better way to get back to work again than spending the week in Chicago for the U.S. Olympic orientation camp? My trusted colleague Scott Burnside will also be on hand in the Windy City (we arrive Sunday) as we dig into what will be a hockey season full of Olympic overtones, culminating with the big tournament in February in beautiful Vancouver.
Host Canada, dynamite Russia and defending Olympic champion Sweden are the favorites, but I'm intrigued by what should prove to be a young and skilled U.S. squad headed by GM Brian Burke and coach Ron Wilson. They'll fly under the radar entering the Olympic tournament and may very well surprise.
It's a one-game, knockout-style tourney, and anything can happen among the top seven hockey countries in the world (Russia, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, United States and Slovakia). Fact is, ever since the NHL began sending its players to the Olympics with the 1998 Nagano Games, we've had six of those seven countries represented in the gold-medal game (Czech-Russia in 1998, Canada-U.S. in 2002 and Sweden-Finland in 2006).
So don't laugh at the young American skaters for truly believing they've got a chance in Vancouver. They do. The preparations begin this week.