SOCHI, RUSSIA – Russian ice hockey legend Vladislav Tretiak insisted Tuesday the team was fully aware of the need to make amends for their dismal showing at the 2010 Olympics, calling on them to rediscover the spirit of Sarajevo.
The much-vaunted Russians — among the favorites in Sochi — were dismantled 7-3 by Canada in an embarrassingly one-sided contest in the Vancouver Games quarterfinals — drawing stinging criticism at home.
Now the expectations have been ratcheted up a level with enormous pressure to win Olympic gold on home ice.
“We remember the Vancouver Olympics and we know we have a lot of responsibility and a lot to answer for,” said Tretiak, who is president of the Ice Hockey Federation of Russia and a three-time gold medalist. “Ice hockey is extremely popular in Russia.
“We are on our home turf. We will fight for the result in every match.”
Tretiak reminded fans that after the Soviet Union won silver behind the United States in 1980 in Lake Placid it rebounded four years later to take gold in Sarajevo.
“In 1980 it was a good lesson for us,” said Tretiak, who along with former figure skater Irina Rodnina lit the cauldron at the Sochi opening ceremony.
“It taught us you have to respect your opponent. We did not have respect for the Americans at the time. In 1984 we managed to rectify our mistake.”
Russian coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov said he would not put up with the petty squabbles and infighting that have blighted Russian teams at previous international events.
Asked how he would juggle the competing demands of a clutch of superstars, Bilyaletdinov said: “I told them they are all going to get five minutes (a game).”
Forward Pavel Datsyuk attended Tuesday’s news conference after not skating in Monday’s practice.
Canada’s coach Mike Babcock, who is also the coach of Datsyuk’s Detroit Red Wings, said Monday the Russian star was not 100 percent fit.
But Datsyuk said he should be ready to play in Russia’s opening game against Slovenia on Thursday.
“Everything is fine with my injury,” Datsyuk said. “It doesn’t bother me at all. Babcock is not my concern right now.”