The 2014 Olympic men's hockey tournament starts today, and all eyes will be on Canada and the US. Canada is looking to defend its 2010 gold medal, while the Americans want to bring home their first hockey gold since 1980 — and avenge a tough overtime loss to the Canadians four years ago.
But there are more than those two teams playing for the gold medal. Ten other countries want to skate out of Sochi as world champions. And while not every team has an equal shot at glory, there are a few nations who could find themselves on the medal podium.
Here are three teams to watch — not wearing a maple leaf or the stars and stripes and their sweaters — as the 2014 tournament gets underway.
Luge is one of the most intense events at the Winter Olympics. A rider (or two, if it's a doubles team) lies flat on a light, aerodynamic sled, then propels themselves down a fast, treacherous track, reaching speeds as high as 90 miles per hour. And the only protection lugers have is a helmet.
Watching a luge run on TV can be exciting, but it doesn't compare to seeing it from the point of view of a a rider going down the track. And thanks to US luge doubles Olympian (and Army sergeant) Matthew Mortensen, we can have that experience from the safety of our computers. Mortensen attached a GoPro camera to his helmet during a practice run in Sochi, and the result is pretty intense.
Four years ago Canada beat the U.S. in an epic gold medal game. Now Team USA has revenge — and gold — on its mind as it heads to Sochi
Every four years NHL teammates are transformed into bitter rivals, taking off their pro sweaters in favor of their national colors for two weeks. Teammates like Chicago Blackhawks stars Patrick Kane of the U.S. and Canada's Jonathan Toews, who have celebrated two Stanley Cups together, are suddenly on the opposite ends of the ice, competing for the gold medal. It's what makes the men's hockey tournament one of the most intense and high-profile events of the Winter Games.
"[Your NHL teammates] become teammates with guys you're always competing against," says Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins' captain and Olympic hero for Team Canada. "All of a sudden they're on the same team and you're on a different team. It's a little weird that way."
Any friendships or NHL team spirit must be put aside — at least for the span of the Games. After all, national pride is on the line, and no two countries know that better than the U.S. and Canada.
By Brian Cazenueve
When Meryl Davis and Charlie White won a silver medal at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, they didn't take much time to bask in their achievement. Instead they immediately started thinking about their next steps — and ultimately another trip to the Olympics.
"Meryl and I looked at each other right afterward, and we were saying, 'What's next?'" White recalls. "It wasn't that we were upset at our result; we just knew there was so much more to accomplish."
That says a lot. On that night, the skaters received the highest scores of their careers up to that point. Since then, the drive for continued success have made them the greatest U.S. ice dance team of all time.
When Hockey Canada unveiled its 2014 Winter Olympics men's roster last month, Tampa Bay Lightning sniper Steven Stamkos was on the team. The only problem was he was out with a broken leg and hadn't played since November. His recovery was going faster than anticipated, and Hockey Canada hoped Stamkos would recover in time to be in game shape for Sochi. But yesterday, the Lightning announced that his recovery was ongoing and that he had not healed enough to be cleared for play.
So Stamkos is out for Sochi. And his teammate Martin St. Louis is in.
The Winter Olympics will have its share of legends, from Shaun White to Meryl Wilson and Charlie White to Teemu Selanne. But older athletes aren't the only ones traveling to Sochi with dreams of gold medals. The next generation of snowboarders and skiers will also hit the slopes, trying to make some history by knocking their heroes off the podium.
When the 2014 Games begin on Friday, keep an eye on Sarah Hendrickson, Ayumu Hirano, Torin Yater-Wallace, Arielle Gold, and Mikaela Shiffrin. These high-flying teenagers are going to turn some heads in Sochi!
Athletes are heading to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics, which begin on Friday. And when Team USA men's hockey goalies Ryan Miller, Jonathan Quick, and Jimmy Howard back their bags, their gear will include specially designed helmets. Over the last few days, the three goalies have been revealing their Olympic masks through social media.