If you too are quivering with excitement for men's hockey to get underway tomorrow, you could do a lot worse to tide yourself over than this New York Times profile of five of the Olympic games' oldest athletes, NHL legends all. It's tough being in your '40s in a young man's game; it's a bit easier when national pride is on the line.
The fivesome includes Finland's Teemu Selanne, 43; the Czech Republic's Petr Nedved and Jaromir Jagr, 42 and 41; and Latvia's Sandis Ozolinsh and Sweden's Daniel Alfredsson, both 41.
But age is only a number. Just how old are they?
- Selanne ties an Olympic hockey record by playing in his sixth Games. (The other recordholder, Raimo Helminen, was Selanne's teammate in 2002. "I remember saying, 'I can't believe there's a grandpa playing in this tournament.") Selanne already holds the Olympic record for most points (20 goals, 17 assists).
- Nedved is the first hockey player in history to go 20 years between Olympic appearances. One of his Czech teammates was born while Nedved was already playing in the NHL. He says it takes him a while to get out of bed in the morning: "I get up the same way as my dog."
- Ozolinsh had to be talked into rejoining Latvia's national team, and thought it would just be for qualifying. He's taking online classes to get his college degree because he didn't want to be in a classroom with a bunch of teenagers.
- All of the players except Alfredsson appeared in NHL '94.
The five have taken very different routes to get here—Nedved retired from the NHL in 2007 and Ozolinsh in 2008, while Jagr leads the Devils in both points and assists. This is a good reminder that these men don't just belong to the NHL; Selanne, Jagr, and Ozolinsh all hold good claims to being their country's most famous athletes. But it's entirely delightful to have them all back in our lives at the same time—it's something of a reunion with those who departed years ago, and, if we needed it, a nudge to value our last season with Selanne and, whenever it comes, with Jagr and Alfredsson.
It's extra-special for Nedved and Ozolinsh. The NHL's Olympic break always begins once the games are underway, so neither had ever marched with their countries before last week. Ozolinsh even got to carry Latvia's flag.
The 'Grandpas' of Hockey [New York Times]