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Caps on their Olympic hockey rooting interests

(By Luis M. Alvarez - AP)

I'm not breaking news here, but there are a lot of D.C. hockey fans with some mixed emotions heading into the Olympic hockey tournament. Sure, most Caps fans in D.C. are American citizens, and sure, they're accustomed to supporting their own country during international events, possibly with the exception of curling. Even so, they've spent exponentially more time cheering for Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin than they have, say, Zach Parise.

Can you suddenly flip the switch and start cheering against Ovechkin the minute the Caps finish up against St. Louis Saturday? And in favor of hated Penguins (and U.S.) defenseman Brooks Orpik?

Count Ted Leonsis among the confused.

"I'm American, so I'm pulling for the Americans, but to be honest I have this secret crush on Russia," he said during an appearance on DC101's Elliot in the Morning this week. "I'm mad at the Canadians for not putting Mike Green [on their roster], and so to be honest, I hope if it comes to Russia vs. Canada...."

Well, he didn't finish that sentence, but a lot of Caps fans could do so for him, especially with Sidney Crosby lining up for the Canadians. But how will the dressing room react if Crosby and the Canucks face off with Ovechkin, Semin, Semyon Varlamov and the rest of the Russians for gold? Unclear.

"You still want to cheer for your own country," Canadian Eric Fehr told me. "I mean, that's the way you grew up, that's the way you're bred. But the fact that they left Greener off the roster and we have three guys on the Russian team? I mean, it's a real toss up."

Coach Bruce Boudreau seemed less conflicted.

"I've got no Canadians on the team," he said this week, when I asked which team he'd support if Russia faced his native land. Surely he's not saying....

"I've got no Canadians on the team and three Russians on the team," Boudreau repeated with a smile.

Others of our Northern neighbors had less doubts about Rocking the Red Army.

"It's gonna be mixed emotions, but I've got to cheer for Canada, man," Matt Bradley said. "If any team has to win other than Canada, I hope it's one of the teams that has our players on it, obviously. We rib each other about it a bit, but I can't really say much, I'm not on the team. So [Ovechkin] can just say, 'Well, why aren't you on the team?' and get me. All the guys going are obviously great players, and I'll obviously be cheering for them personally, but as a team, I still want Canada to win."

How does that work out in practice? Brooks Laich--another Canadian who said he was absolutely rooting for country over teammates--gave an example.

"I'll want Ovi to score three goals, but I'll want Canada to score four," he said, before remembering the rest of his teammates. "Maybe Semin to score three, Ovi to score three, Varly to make 59 saves, Canada to win 7-6. How's that?"

There are also the Americans, of course, who might be less passionate about the whole deal. Brian Pothier, for example, told the CBC he was picking Sweden to win it all.

Mike Knuble said he "just [wants] to see [his teammates] do well and nobody get hurt or too banged up or anything." Knuble said he'd cheer for the Americans if they face Russia, and he thought he'd probably cheer for Canada if the favorites meet for gold. Not sure how that would go over with a certain linemate.

(A previous version of this suggested Knuble was American. He was born in Toronto, raised in Michigan, and has represented the U.S. in the Olympics. I guess he's both Canadian and American, so his cheering interests make sense.)

As for the competitors themselves, the Czech Republic's Tomas Fleischmann said there would be no hard feelings, even after head-to-head meetings.

"It's not strange, it's good," he said. "You don't have an opportunity like that during the season. It's just gonna be fun, playing hockey against each other."

Of course, there's one scenario that hasn't been discussed nearly as much as the Canada-Ovechkin apocalypse. Say that Russia--with its three Caps--faces defending gold medalists Sweden--which boasts both Nicklas Backstrom and the overwhelmingly positive association of IKEA furniture--in the finals? What then, Caps?

"We'll cross those bridges when we need to," Boudreau said with a laugh.

(See more on all this nonsense from the CBC.)

By Dan Steinberg  |  February 11, 2010; 4:14 PM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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Next: Caps loss smashes ratings record yet again


I'm going:

anyone but Canada

Posted by: Tank2 | February 11, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

I like your thinking. And after Boudreau's comments, I have to say I have a serious man-crush on this entire organization!

Posted by: jburksva | February 11, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

I'm rooting the same way I do every year. USA first, Sweden second.

Posted by: JohninMpls | February 11, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Ridiculous. USA all the way. Canada vs. Russia? I don't care, it doesn't have anything to do with the Caps.

Ireland ain't in it so just USA for me.

Posted by: milfordone | February 11, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Do you believe in...

Posted by: richs91 | February 12, 2010 6:18 AM | Report abuse

Czech Republic (I have a hockey crush on the team)
Anybody but Canada!!!

Posted by: irockthered | February 12, 2010 8:05 AM | Report abuse

Good piece but one problem. Mike Knuble is from Toronto. That's really close to the US but I'm pretty sure everyone who is born there is a Canadian.

I'm w/ Ted and Bruce. US first then Russia, then Sweeden, then the Czechs. Basically anyone but Canada.

Posted by: Avar | February 12, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse

I don't see how real Caps fans can root for anyone other than Russia. Start with Ovechkin, Semin and Varlamov. Then add Federov and Koslov, who were key parts of our team just last year. Russia even has long-time Caps star Sergei Gonchar, who left the Caps by trade, not by choice. We can also root for Sweden and the Czech Republic. Caps fans should be loyal to the Caps players. Why should we want anything other for Orpik's team or Crosby's team than for them to lose?

Posted by: thereds | February 12, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Team USA for everything except Men's Hockey. Then it's Team Russia.

Posted by: OvechkinFan92801 | February 12, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

if russia loses will our alexes be even more motivated?

Posted by: gconrads | February 12, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

As a Canadian I'm enjoying the anybody but Canada sentiments. Of course, I'll be cheering for Canada, after that it's Slovakia and Belarus.

Posted by: Ottawaguy | February 12, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

What a bunch of fanboys! As an American, how could you even think to root for any other team in the Olympics? You mancrushes on Ovechkin and Semin are bordering on weird.

Posted by: vahockeyfan | February 12, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

A.B.C. -> Anyone But Canada or Always Beat Canada

Nice pic of Crosby... I thought diving was a Summer Olympics sport?

Posted by: osiuerer | February 12, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Russia all the way, no doubt. and definitely hating on Crosby, anything with his face on the front can go to hell.

Posted by: tony28 | February 12, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

haha, this is a funny and interesting topic. i'm a huge caps fan and like most have an extreme dislike for the pens. i'm definitely rooting for team usa first, russia second, and canada 12th. russia and the usa don't play in the prelims, but if they do indeed meet in the knock out or medal rounds, i'm rooting for a usa win, but would certainly cheer for ovie and semin goals, as well as any great saves made by varlamov (although my understanding is varly probably will not play much).

Posted by: danog224 | February 12, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

i just want to see Russia vs. Canada and see Ovi crush Syndey ...hope Ovi takes it easy on Backie if he plays Sweden ...and can you really root for any team with Brooks O'prik on it ?

Posted by: heathdog1119 | February 12, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse

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