Winter Olympics 2014: Pressure on hosts to deliver as Ice Hockey expectations grow before Games officially begin in Russia

Ice Hockey is considered one of the blue riband events of the Winter Olympics with the Russian national team expected to win gold

Ice hockey, one of the blue riband Winter Olympic Games events, begins on Saturday with the women's competition at the Shayba Arena in Sochi.

However, it is the men's event, which starts next Wednesday, which will be the subject of even more interest.

Host nation Russia, for the past four years ranked number one by the International Ice Hockey Federation, is understandably under pressure to win gold.

The sport is massive in the country and continues to grow in popularity, a fact not missed by some of Russia's other Olympians.

Alexander Khoroshilov, who is acknowledged as Russia's best chance for an alpine skiing medal, said: "I have no fans in Russia. It's not very popular on TV.

"You can't see the Russian cup or watch the national championships.

"We have a lot of snow in our country and it is very cold. But it's all about the hockey."

However, Russia's most recent Olympic ice hockey medal was a bronze in Salt Lake City in 2002, with a silver four years earlier at the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan.

Most of head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov's squad play either in Canada or the United States, two of the sports' super powers, and home fans will be looking to players such as Alexander Ovechkin, who captains NHL side the Washington Capitals, to inspire their heroes to glory.

The 2010 Olympics final in Vancouver was fought out between Canada and the USA, with celebrations throughout the host country when they came through to win gold in a thrilling encounter.

There is also plenty to be excited about in the women's event, which made its Olympic debut in Nagano.

The Canadians - who also beat their female USA counterparts in the Vancouver final - will look to continue their recent domination of international competitions.

Caroline Ouellette, Jayna Hefford and Hayley Wickenheiser are hoping to win a gold medal in four successive Games.

However, the United States are determined to upset their neighbours and traditional rivals.

"There is a little pressure coming in since we've not won Olympic gold since 1998," said Kelli Stack, who makes her second Olympic appearance.

"But we like to play big games and I think we will rise to the occasion. We've done an incredible job of preparing for Sochi and planning for the tournament.

"We play up-tempo hockey and are an incredibly fast team. We like to go to the net, get dirty in the corners, but really we pride ourselves on being one of the best defensive teams out there and have great goaltending."

PA

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
peopleNick Clegg remains optimistic despite dismal Lib Dem poll ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Déjà vu: David Tennant returns to familiar territory with Anna Gunn (‘Breaking Bad’)
tvReview: Something is missing in Gracepoint, and it's not just the familiar names
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?