With the Olympic Games less than a week away there have been a lot of discussions amongst the hockey media and fan base on where people's allegiance will and should lie.
Do you root for your home country or do you simply enjoy great hockey and cheer for the individual players that are participating from your favorite NHL franchise?
I, for one, will be adamantly cheering for my home country (USA). To be honest, I can't understand how "who to cheer for" is even a question in some fans minds, but to each their own.
Just like with the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL, when it comes to the US Olympic Hockey Team I am a much bigger fan of the crest on the jersey than the individuals who are wearing it.
I am extremely proud to be an American and I would love to see them capture the gold in Vancouver (it would go along nicely with their WJC title and World Under 18 Championship).
Although there are five Penguin representatives in the Olympic tournament only Brooks Orpik will be skating for the USA.
Please don't get me wrong, I would love to see Crosby, Fleury, Malkin, and Gonchar play solid hockey (and for the love of God suffer no injuries!) and at the very least have some individual success in the tourney (especially to keep them confident when they revert back to members of the black and gold), but for the two weeks in Vancouver I'm backing the likes of Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane, Ryan Miller, and Brian Rafalski over Sid, Geno, Flower, and Gonch.
If the US falters on the Olympic stage then I will be pulling for the other red, white, and blue...Russia.
Again, my choice of Russia as a secondary team in Vancouver has nothing to do with the players on the team. I am of Russian descent (I've also got some Italian and Lithuanian blood, but lets just say those countries didn't quite make the cut for Olympic hockey) and since a large portion of my family came to America from Russia they will have some of my Olympic backing.
As far as cheering for individuals in the Olympic Games I look at it as a double-edged sword.
I'm obviously excited to cheer once again for Ex-Penguins Ryan Malone and Ryan Whitney, but also for players whose games I really respect. Guys like Dustin Brown from the L.A. Kings and Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks (I also have man love for Zach Parise. The guy is awesome...even though he is a Devil).
Luckily, for me, the US roster is devoid of players that I am not fond of. Yes, it has a few Devils and Rangers (thank God no Flyers or Caps), but the ones that are sprinkled throughout team USA are guys I can live with, at least for two weeks.
Now, team Russia is a different story. As I stated earlier they are my "backup team" so to speak, in the tournament, but I must admit I may get a little nauseous if I see a gold medal hanging around the necks of the Washington Alexanders, Ovechkin and Semin (both great players, especially Ovie, I just can't stand either one of them. But again I'm a die-hard Pens fan so I'm sure I'm not alone in that sentiment).
All of these twists and turns in rooting for countries, against players you love and for players you don’t will make for some interesting internal tug of war (Ovechkin shoots he scores...YES!...no wait, damn it I hate that guy!).
The first game of the men's Olympic ice hockey tournament will be played on February 16th and no matter where your allegiance lies, I'm sure all hockey fans can agree on one thing...it is going to be both enjoyable and memorable.
USA , USA, USA!