It's OK to root for Russia in the Olympics, CBJ Fan
FEB 13, 2014 9:18a ET
It's an odd position to be in, that's for sure.
Here we are in Columbus, Ohio, rooting for the Columbus Blue Jackets. The franchise is among the more openly patriotic that I've come across, what with the special recognition of active servicemembers or veterans at every home game and an annual military appreciation night every season.
With that as backdrop, you'd think that it's a no-brainer to root for Team USA in the Olympic men's hockey tournament. Why, even Todd Richards, the Blue Jackets head coach, will be assisting Pittsburgh's Dan Bylsma behind the bench. U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A, right?
Well, kind of...but consider this: The Blue Jackets have five players who are Olympians as well. And they're all Russians.
That's right. Four CBJers on the twenty-five person Russian Federation roster. A full sixteen percent of Team Russia is under contract to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The volume and concentration of players with a single non-USA Olympic team is without compare. Sure, Detroit has six Olympic Swedes, but they also have players skating for Russia, Slovakia and USA. The Blue Jackets Olympians are Russians...and nothing else.
These aren't bench sitters, either. No healthy scratches in this bunch. Not when you have reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky in net. Not when you have Fedor Tyutin and Nikita Nikitin patrolling the blue line. Not when you have Artem Anisimov sniping away. No, these are quality players that should all be expected to contribute along the way. We know these guys and root for them all throughout the year, so why wouldn't we cheer them on now?
I'll admit that this is a bit awkward - I still remember the grim days when the United States and the now-former Soviet Union seemingly were locked in a death spiral. Disliking Russia - heck, hating Russia - was an instinctive behavior when I was younger. That's all past us now (at least I hope so), but it's hard to give up the old habits. Now, however, we have four very solid reasons to do so.
Team Russia plays on Thursday (against Slovenia), Saturday (United States - Oh boy!) and Sunday (Slovakia) - all games start at 7:30 AM. I gather that if the broadcasters find a single game compelling, they'll re-run it at 6PM. That said, I have a feeling what will be on the air at six on Saturday night!
So there you go. Root for Team USA - I'll presume that most of you are American citizens, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with cheering for your home country do to well. At the same time, save a little enthusiasm for Team Russia...because, as a Columbus Blue Jackets fan, you have four very compelling reasons to do so.