by Dante A. Ciampaglia
NHL players dream of hoisting the silver Stanley Cup, but every four years those thoughts turn to gold as the pros suit up for their home countries in the Winter Olympics. This season, the NHL takes an Olympic break from February 9 through 25 as players head to Sochi, Russia. Canada, the defending gold medalist, is the early favorite in 2014. And this year's team will be stacked, with stars like the Penguins' Sidney Crosby and the Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews. In 2010, Team USA came within an overtime goal of winning it all. This time around, with a talent pool that includes the last two Conn Smythe Trophy winners, Chicago's Patrick Kane and Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, the U.S. could take home its first gold since 1980. Russia has Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, the Penguins' EvgeniMalkin, and home-ice advantage. One other team to keep an eye on is Finland. Since 1998, when NHL players began participating in the Winter Games, Finland has won three medals (one silver, two bronze) — more than any other country.
Check out the rest of Sports Illustrated Kids' NHL 2013 Preview on the SI Kids Blog!
Photo: DAVID E. KLUTHO/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED