Five Capitals Olympians begin long trek to Sochi

Five Capitals Olympians begin long trek to Sochi
February 9, 2014, 12:30 pm
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If it’s Sunday and you’re reading this, John Carlson, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson and Marty Erat are probably sleeping on a plane right now somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean.

The Capitals’ five Olympians were scheduled to catch one of a series of flights out of NewarkInternationalAirport arranged by the NHL Players’ Association. The 10-hour flights are scheduled to begin around noon and will take players and their families directly to Sochi, Russia, where the men’s hockey tournament will begin on Wednesday.

With so many Olympians on board, Backstrom was asked if there would be an air of excitement on his flight.

“I’m not even sure it’s going to be exciting the first hour,” Backstrom said. “Everyone’s going to be tired. We’ll get as much sleep as we can because when we wake up it will be morning [in Sochi]. We need to get into a rhythm right way with their time.”

Having played all 59 games of the Capitals’ condensed season, Backstrom said the biggest obstacle heading to Sochi is getting the proper rest.

“The only part that will be a little tough is going to be the travel, the time change,” he said. “Other than that you’re so wired up the whole season, it’s like a habit for you to play games.”

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There is a nine-hour time difference between Washington and Sochi, which means if it’s noon in D.C. it’s 9 p.m. in Sochi. That also means a noon flight today out of Newark would land at about 7 a.m. on Monday in Sochi.

The NHLPA agreed to allow players’ family members to join them on the cross-continental flights to and from the Olympics. Carlson will be joined by his father, mother, step-father, brother, aunt and girlfriend.

“It’s great,” Carlson said. “They spent as much time on hockey as I did when I was a kid They’ll enjoy everything.”

While a handful of NHL players asked their families to remain home because of security concerns Carlson said he does not share those concerns.

“No,” he said, “I’m not worried about anything.”

Because they were late additions to the Czech and Swedish teams, Erat and Johansson said they were not sure if family members would be joining them in Sochi. Erat’s wife, Vera, is due to deliver the couple’s second child on Feb. 25, two days after the gold medal game. Her parents will be spending the Olympic break with her in Nashville.

Erat said his mother was considering going to Sochi for her son’s third and likely final Olympic experience.

Ovechkin, who will be joined by his parents, brother and fiancé, tennis star Maria Kirilenko, seemed prepared to carry the enormous expectations that await him in his home country.

“Everybody wants Russia to win gold,” Ovechkin said. “It doesn’t matter which sport it is, but I think hockey is the most popular of the games, so it’s going to be fun.”

As for the opportunity to visit other sporting venues, the Capitals Olympians said they would see if time permits them that opportunity.

“My priority is hockey,” Carlson said, “and if there is a chance to see an event I’ll see it. Well see how much time I have.”

The men’s tournament begins on Wednesday when Backstrom, Johansson and the rest of Team Sweden faces off against Erat and the Czech Republic. The 10-day tournament concludes on Sunday, Feb. 23 with the gold medal game.

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