Latvia, Norway and Slovakia have announced their preliminary rosters for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.
Latvia with well-prepared team
Latvia, which earned the berth by winning the qualification tournament on home ice in Riga, will travel to Vancouver with a well-prepared team. Nineteen out of the 23 players were already on the roster of the team that reached the quarterfinals in the 2009 World Championship.
Fifteen players from Olegs Znaroks’ roster play together with the same club: Latvia’s KHL team, Dinamo Riga. No other team in Vancouver will have so many players from the same club. It's an advantage that should help the Latvians achieve a better finish than in Turin 2006, where they ended up last.
Znaroks has two NHL players in his team in Oskars Bartulis and Karlis Skrastins. The third Latvian NHLer, Raitis Ivanans, who has represented his native country only once (in the 2008 World Championship), is not on the preliminary roster.
Another missing name is Sandis Ozolins. He’s staging a comeback as the most used skater and top-scoring defenceman of Dinamo Riga at age 37, but will not play in the Olympics.
For goalies Edgars Masalskis and Sergejs Naumovs, defencemen Karlis Skrastins and Rodrigo Lavins, and forward Aleksandrs Nizivijs, it will be the third consecutive Olympics.
Jakobsen’s Olympic comeback after 16 years
When the Norwegians won the qualification tournament in Oslo in February, they achieved an Olympic comeback after a 16-year absence. The last time the Norwegians played hockey at the Olympics was in 1994 when they hosted it in Lillehammer.
The only player who was part of the Lillehammer team is 39-year-old defenceman Tommy Jakobsen. He returned to Norway last summer after a 13-year career in Germany and Austria.
Head coach Roy Johansen represented Norway in three Olympic Winter Games (1984, 1988, 1992).
Johansen’s roster is similar to the national team Norwegian fans have cheered on in recent years. Twenty-one out of the 23 players dressed for Norway in the 2009 World Championship.
The only big absentee is veteran defenceman Anders Myrvold. This former NHLer (Colorado, Boston, New York Islanders, and Detroit) was not put on the list for Vancouver 2010.
Most of the players (11) come from the Swedish Elitserien, the most popular destination for top players from Norway and Denmark. Six players come from the Norwegian league, and three from the German DEL.
The biggest stars are 25-year-old Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Ole Kristian Tollefsen and former NHLer Patrick Thoresen. The 26-year-old forward plays for Salavat Yulayev Ufa, and is sixth in scoring in the Russian KHL.
Satan: no club, but fourth Olympics
NHL veteran Miroslav Satan could become the first player to represent Slovakia in four Olympic Winter Games. Although Slovakia’s top goal-getter hasn't played for any club this season, head coach Jan Filc put him on the 23-man preliminary roster.
For Lubomir Visnovsky, Lubos Bartecko, Pavol Demitra, Marian Hossa and Jozef Stümpel, it will be the third Olympics.
On a team where the average age is 30.2 years, Satan is one of eight players that won the 2002 World Championship – the biggest-ever success of the Slovakian national team. The others are Rastislav Stana, Richard Lintner, Martin Strbak, Lubomir Visnovsky, Lubos Bartecko, Zigmund Palffy, and Josef Stümpel.
The two best leagues in the world account for 20 of the players. Twelve players come from the NHL, meaning that Filc is summoning all but two Slovakian players (Marek Svatos, Boris Valabik) from that league, plus eight from the Russian KHL.
The only player from the Slovak Extraliga is Zigmund Palffy, who went back to help his hometown team, HK 36 Skalica, and leads the league in scoring.
During their press conference on Tuesday, the Slovaks also announced the roster of their women’s national team, which will play in the Olympics for the first time.
Click here for the men’s preliminary rosters.
Click here for the women’s preliminary rosters.