The Sochi 2014 Olympics are under way and men’s ice hockey kicks off Wednesday with Czech Republic facing Sweden.
Men’s ice hockey made its first appearance at the Olympic Games in 1920 and remains an important event to not only viewers but local hockey professionals also.
The St. Charles Chill Professional Hockey team is a AA affiliate of the St. Louis Blues that makes The Family Arena its home ice.
They are comprised of a variety of players coming from many different backgrounds and countries, including the United States, Sweden, Slovakia and Canada.
Sunday the players sat down and gave their opinions on the Winter Olympics and who they thought would take the gold medal.
Goalie Linus Lundin, a 21-year-old from Sweden, was the first player to weigh in on what the Olympics mean to him personally.
“As a Swede it means a lot. It is pretty much the biggest thing you can win, except the Stanley Cup,” he said.
He also commented on who he believed would take home the medals this year.
“I think Canada will be up there, Sweden will be up there and then Russia or the U.S.,” he said.
Lundin also spoke of which teams he believed have the greatest offense and defense.
“I have to go with Canada for offense, and for defense Sweden or Canada,” he said.
Lundin’s teammate, Travis Ouellette, a 24-year-old forward from Canada, had a different take on who he believes is the best team at the 2014 Olympics.
“I don’t want to create any enemies, but obviously I think Canada should get gold and then after that it really doesn’t matter,” he said.
Ouellette mentioned that he believes the hockey styles vary from country to country.
“It is different styles depending on where you are,” he said. “Obviously, Europe is more finesse and ice skating and North American hockey is more physical.”
Ouellette also specified who he is rooting for individually.
“Chris Kunitz, he went to my college so I am happy that it is his first time making the Olympic team and it is an honor for him,” said Ouellette, who graduated from Ferris State University.
Martin Hlinka, a forward for the Chill, also talked about the meaning of the Olympics to him.
“Well, the Olympics are one of the greatest honors that you can get as a player,” said Hlinka. “I have never made it there, but it is always fun to watch the players representing your country.”
Like the other players, Hlinka shows favoritism to his home country of Slovakia.
“Slovakia is who I am rooting for of course but I really just want to see good games and have a good competitive tournament,” he said.
His opinion on who would place differed slightly from teammate Lundin’s picks.
“Probably the favorites are Canada, Russia and the U.S., but I am hoping Slovakia sneaks in there which is going to be tough,” he said.
Hlinka believes that the top six teams all have great offense.
“I do think that playing at home will be easier for Russia,” he said.
All three players do agree on one aspect of hockey this year at the Olympics; they all think that their home country will take home the gold.