Team USA general manager David Poile knows his American hockey history, especially when it comes to winning wars in Europe.
“We know what the challenge is here,” Poile said. “We haven’t had any success in Europe on the big ice. The United States hasn’t won any medals in the Olympics played in Europe. We have to make some adjustments.”
In its history, the men’s U.S. Olympic hockey team has won two gold medals. The first came in 1960 in Squaw Valley, Calif. The second came in Lake Placid, N.Y., in 1980.
The last time the Americans medaled outside of North America was in the 1972 games in Sapporo, Japan.
“We’re not going to Vancouver,” Team USA head coach Dan Bylsma said. “We’re going on foreign soil, a place where we haven’t done well in Olympic Games. I’m not saying we’re going as an underdog, but we’re going over with something to prove about USA Hockey.”
Most of the American hockey players landed in Sochi on Monday morning [Sochi time] and will be practicing for the first time Monday night in Sochi. They open round-robin tournament play Thursday against Zdeno Chara and Slovakia.
Team USA goaltender Ryan Miller said the players’ ability to adapt to the time change is just one of the challenges facing the Americans.
“It’s definitely going to be a factor,” he said. “Time zones will change, the travel, going to a country where you’re not as comfortable. You don’t speak the language, things are unfamiliar.
“Vancouver probably seems like a cakewalk compared to what it could be in Russia, where everything is going to be unfamiliar. Guys are going to have to lean on each other a bit.”
Following their game against Slovakia, the U.S. will get a real taste of Russia when they face Alex Ovechkin and the host team on Saturday.
Bylsma, who had never been to Russia before this week, said he hopes the isolation of the Olympic village will keep his team united in its quest to earn its first medal on European soil.
“I have seen the Olympic village – virtually, but I’ve seen it – and I’ve seen the venues and it’s going to be absolutely fantastic,” he said. “What they’ve done with the venues they’ve created and the Olympic village is outstanding.”