Quest for Olympic Gold Outshines NHL Bonds

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Quest for Olympic Gold Outshines NHL Bonds
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Brooks Orpik, Team USA defenseman, is gaining position in the defensive zone as a Canadian forward is flying down the boards. Typically, Orpik would close ground between himself and the forward, then separate the puck with ruthless efficiency.

This case is a little different: the Canadian forward is Sidney Crosby, Orpik's teammate and captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Does Orpik play for national glory and dislodge the puck from his captain, or does he concentrate on his NHL goals and try not to hurt him?

This scenario was played out on Sunday in the USA vs. Canada game. Both players acted as I thought they would: Orpik laid two devastating checks on Crosby in one shift, while Crosby took a high-sticking penalty against his teammate.

These types of scenarios happen many times during the Olympic Games. Teammates and friends are typically placed in one another's path to national glory: a gold medal.

Teammates form strong bonds out of necessity in the NHL because of long road trips, time spent together, and the will to win. The unfortunate part of hockey is that it is a business.

Teammates and lineups are typically jostled from day to day—especially during the trade deadline—let alone year to year. Friendships typically become more strained as the number of times played goes up.

This is not the case with the Olympics. There are position battles and battles to be included on the roster, but one goal outshines all personal feelings: national pride. Players are brought together for a common cause, which has unified many feuds.

The feud between countrymen Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin was well-documented when both entered the league (2005 and 2006, respectively). The more the two played each other, the more animosity was present. 

The former teammates had grown to strongly dislike each other until a dinner in 2008. A fellow countryman brought the two strong personalities together to work out their differences. The reason: They wanted to be a unified force when the Olympics came around in 2010.

The dinner obviously worked out, as Malkin (three goals, two assists) and Ovechkin (two goals, two assists) are first and second in scoring on the team, and they have led Team Russia to a first-round bye in the medal round.

The Olympics bring together friends and enemies from across the world to do battle on the ice. From the opening ceremonies on, all personal and professional disputes are put aside for the glory of wearing a gold medal.

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