Shannon Szabados

Shannon Szabados: Oilers welcomed me with open arms (video)

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Shannon Szabados said she wasn’t nervous practicing with the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday.

The Canadian women’s national team’s No. 1 said she got a call from Oilers coach Dallas Eakins after Tuesday night’s 3-2 win over the Senators, asking her if she had her gear and if she wanted to practice Wednesday.

“Not a bad week and a half,” Szabados, 27, said. “Gold medal in Sochi and practicing with the Oilers. Doesn’t get much better.”

Szabados was called on because the Oilers were short on goalies after Tuesday trades. A male reinforcement is on the way, so she’s not looking to get into a game yet.

One woman has played in the NHL — 1998 Canadian Olympic goalie Manon Rheaume in exhibition games in 1992 and 1993.

Szabados, who has said a goal is to play men’s professional hockey, knew some of the players already and actually played against another Oilers goalie, Ben Scrivens, in juniors.

What was the significance of a woman practicing with an NHL team?

“Hopefully, maybe just open some eyes,” said Szabados, who played against men in juniors and at the university level as recently as last year. “As a hockey player, and as a female hockey player, you just want to be seen as a hockey player and as a goalie. That’s what I felt like today. The Oilers welcomed me with open arms, just another player on the ice with maybe a little longer hair than the rest of them.”

Oilers GM Craig MacTavish said on Tuesday that Szabados playing in a game could be something the team considered but not at this point in time.

The Oilers skaters were impressed by her Wednesday.

“She was great today,” center Sam Gagner said. “It was nice to have her out. Obviously, we all watched that gold-medal game. It was awesome to watch, so I’m sure it was a thrill for her to be out here. It was fun for us as well.”

Szabados, who skates with NHL players in the summer, was tested in a shootout in the latter part of practice.

“You don’t see much net,” right wing Jordan Eberle said. “She moves well. … Once you kind of figured out that she was pretty good, you’re trying to score and put as many in as you can.”

Russia Olympic hockey coach done after poor Sochi showing

Italian curler roars after hitting shot to qualify for Olympics (video)

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World Curling
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Forgive Amos Mosaner for shouting, for he clinched Italy’s first Olympic curling qualification.

Mosaner’s double takeout in an extra end put Italy past Denmark 6-5 in the last-chance Olympic qualification tournament in Pilsen, Czech Republic, on Sunday.

He rushed down the ice after that last stone, tossed his broom aside, pumped his fist and roared into a group hug with teammates.

Skip Joël Retornaz returns to the Olympics after a 12-year absence. He skipped Italy’s team at the 2006 Olympics, where they earned an automatic berth as host nation.

“This has such a different taste,” the 34-year-old Retornaz said, according to World Curling. “Earning the right on the ice feels great. It feels like a dream for me.”

Denmark later did make the Olympic field as the last nation, beating the Czechs for the spot.

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MORE: List of Russia Olympic medals stripped; new Sochi medal standings

The Pyeongchang Olympic curling fields:

Men
Canada
Sweden
U.S.
Japan
Switzerland
Great Britain
Norway
Italy
Denmark
South Korea

Women
Canada
Russia
Switzerland
Great Britain
U.S.
Sweden
Japan
China
Denmark
South Korea

Mixed Doubles
China
Canada
Russia
U.S.
Switzerland
Norway
Finland
South Korea

Russia says its athletes want to compete at Pyeongchang Olympics

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russian athletes are overwhelmingly in favor of competing at the Pyeongchang Winter Games despite a ban on the national team, the country’s Olympic committee said Monday.

Sofia Velikaya said the Russian Olympic Committee’s athletes’ commission, which she chairs, has heard from “all the athletes in all sports” on the Olympic program, with a majority in favor of competing.

Velikaya said no athletes have told the ROC they would rather boycott.

“At the current moment, everyone’s training and everyone’s hoping to take part in the Olympics,” Velikaya said.

The International Olympic Committee last week barred the Russian team from Pyeongchang because of doping offenses at the Sochi Olympics, but is allowing Russians to compete under a neutral flag as “Olympic Athletes from Russia.”

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the government won’t stand in their way.

ROC spokesman Konstantin Vybornov said teams from biathlon and snowboard had recorded videos affirming their desire to compete, while the men’s hockey team has written “a collective letter.”

Some Russian hardliners believe it is shameful for athletes to compete at the Olympics without their national flag. But Velikaya defended the athletes, saying everyone watching will know who is from Russia.

“The choice of competing at the Olympics is strictly individual,” Velikaya said. “I call on Russian society to treat athletes’ decisions with understanding and respect.”

With the IOC due to send out invitations to individual Russians over the next two months, Velikaya said Russian sports officials would put together lists of their preferred teams.

Those rosters, she said, would stop the IOC from inviting “numbers five and six” in the Russian team while leaving out genuine medal contenders.

Russia is pushing back against some IOC conditions, however, backing appeals by Russian athletes banned for doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Velikaya also said her commission will ask the IOC to remove a condition stopping athletes from being invited to Pyeongchang if they have been suspended for doping in the past.

That affects a few athletes with earlier offenses unconnected to the Sochi Olympics, including biathletes banned for using the blood-booster EPO and speed skating world champion Denis Yuskov, who was suspended in 2008 after testing positive for marijuana.

Forcing the Russians to compete as neutral athletes puts the IOC in the uncomfortable position of regulating how they celebrate.

The Russian flag won’t be flown at medal ceremonies, but what happens if a Russian winner accepts a flag or a gift from a spectator for a victory lap? Can Russian athletes fly the flag from their windows in the athletes village?

Those are on a list of questions Vybornov said Russia will ask of the IOC.

“A figure skater wins, let’s say, and they throw her a teddy bear in Russian uniform onto the ice,” Vybornov said. “She picks it up. Can she do that? Or is that an offense?”

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