Vladislav Tretiak

Russian Hockey president Vladislav Tretiak to scout NHL players for Olympic team

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November will be a key month for Russian NHL players hoping to make the Sochi Olympic team.

Russian Hockey Federation president Vladislav Tretiak, the goaltender on the 1980 Soviet Union Olympic team, and Olympic coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov will scout North American professional players in person.

“I will definitely go to North America in November in order to cover as many players as possible, not only goaltenders,” Tretiak said, according to R-Sport. “Bilyaletdinov will also go, but I want to meet with the guys personally, talk to them, evaluate their level of readiness ahead of the Olympics.”

Russia has not won an Olympic hockey medal since a bronze at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, and it has never won Olympic gold. The Soviet Union won all but two Olympic hockey tournaments from 1956 through 1988, and the Unified Team won gold in 1992.

The men’s hockey gold might be the most coveted medal for the host nation come February, just as in the Vancouver Games. The home-ice advantage will certainly help Russia. Neither Canada nor the U.S. won medals at the last two Olympics held outside North America (1998 and 2006).

Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin is expected to lead the 25-man Russian Olympic team. He was the first Russian torchbearer during the torch relay that began Sunday (video here). Russia is stacked with star forwards, including Evgeni MalkinIlya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk.

A big question for Russia is in goal. NHL starters Sergei BobrovskyEvgeni Nabokov and Semyon Varlamov were invited to their pre-Olympic camp. The enigmatic Ilya Bryzgalov, currently without a team but reportedly close to signing with Las Vegas of the ECHL, was not invited to that camp, but he is still eligible to be chosen.

Bryzgalov and Nabokov split time in goal at the 2010 Olympics, where Russia was eliminated by Canada in the quarterfinals.

“I think that Ilya is a good goaltender and if he plays fantastically, than why not?” Tretiak told R-Sport. “But it is the coaches’ business to decide who will go.”

Retired Olympic star calls Russia ‘indisputable’ favorite for hockey gold

Patrick Chan plans to retire after 2018 Olympic season

Patrick Chan
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Olympic silver medalist Patrick Chan said he plans to make the 2017-18 figure skating season his last, as expected.

“Yes, I have many projects lined up ahead after my competitive career,” Chan told media Wednesday.

Chan, at 25, is arguably young enough to keep skating beyond the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, which would be his third Winter Games.

But the three-time world champion (2011, 2012, 2013), who is currently coach-less following the surprise resignation of Kathy Johnson earlier this month, is in awe of the jumps that younger skaters are throwing.

“Honestly, just look at [Japanese] Shoma’s [Uno] quad flip,” Chan joked with media. “That’s enough of an answer to just be like, yeah, this is my time. I’m going to leave on a high.”

Chan earned silver at the 2014 Olympics behind Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, then took one season off from competition.

He returned last year, beating Hanyu at Skate Canada but finishing a disappointing fifth at the world championships after a disastrous free skate. That marked his worst worlds finish since his debut in 2008 as a 17-year-old.

Chan said before last season’s worlds that his performance there would determine whether he continued skating through the 2018 Olympics.

“I’m at a disadvantage now, technically,” Chan said in March. “I’m competing against men who are doing five quads between the short program and the long program, and I’m at three between the two programs. Who would ever imagine that three wasn’t enough for some people?”

Chan remains the best Canadian skater. He won his eighth national title last year.

Chan will make his Grand Prix series debut at Skate Canada the last weekend of October, against a field that again includes Hanyu.

MORE: 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships host set

Final three Pyeongchang Olympic men’s hockey spots set to be filled

Anze Kopitar
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The 2018 Olympic men’s hockey field of 12 teams will be complete by the end of this weekend.

The last three spots will go to winners of three round-robin qualifying tournaments in Europe that run from Thursday through Sunday.

The Olympic Channel will stream the action.

The current Olympic men’s hockey groups (world ranking in parentheses):

Group A Group B Group C
Canada (1) Russia (2) Finland (3)
Czech Republic (6) USA (4) Sweden (5)
Switzerland (7) Slovakia (8) Qualifier
South Korea (23 — host) Qualifier Qualifier

Those three qualifiers will be the winners of these three tournaments this weekend:

Tournament 1 Tournament 2 Tournament 3
Belarus (9 — host) Germany (10) Norway (11 — host)
Denmark (13) Latvia (12 — host) France (14)
Slovenia (15) Austria (17) Kazakhstan (16)
Poland (20) Japan (21) Italy (18)

All of the Olympic medal contenders are among the nine nations already in the Pyeongchang field, but a few notables are vying for spots this weekend.

Belarus memorably upset Sweden in the 2002 Olympic quarterfinals and wound up fourth in Salt Lake City. It last competed in the Olympics in 2010. Belarus’ biggest competition in its qualifying tournament may be Slovenia, which won two games at the Sochi Olympics and is led by Los Angeles Kings All-Star Anze Kopitar.

Like Belarus, Germany also last played at the Olympics in 2010. More recently, it beat the U.S. at the World Championship in May, behind New York Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss. To get to Pyeongchang, Germany must top a group that includes host Latvia, which made the last four Olympics and beat Switzerland in Sochi.

Norway hosts the group with the least amount of recent Olympic experience. None of France, Kazakhstan or Italy made either of the last two Olympics. Norway ought to be favored, then, since it reached the 2010 and 2014 Olympics, though it lost every contest at both Winter Games. New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello stars for the Norwegians.

It’s unknown whether the NHL will send its players to the 2018 Olympics.

MORE: Canada holds Soviet-like dominance after another world hockey title