Early next week, the IIHF Sanhedrin will make a decision on the admission of the Russian team to the tournaments of the next Olympic cycle, and it is not entirely clear why the international bureaucracy is delaying the obvious “no” answer so long. long. Not even UEFA could push for the return of youth teams to football, not even the completely commercial NHL could not find a trick to allow Russia to participate in its World Cup and was forced to come up with something absurdly truncated. Should we suddenly expect a positive precedent in hockey, especially in the context of the “Fedotov case”?
In general, everything indicates that Russia will spend the Milan Olympics as television viewers on the couch. There will probably be many dissatisfied people, but it is difficult to imagine that the first tournament in 10 years with the participation of (almost) all the best players in the world will not attract attention in Russia: therefore, in the near future there will be fever of waiting and qualifying all possible alignments.
However, they estimate Russia’s composition for the Olympic Games this way:
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Despite the traditional cliché “five or six countries are competing for medals” (and we all know these countries by heart), almost every national hockey tournament has a favorite: Canada. Until recently, this was the country with the widest selection of players and, on paper, almost always the most talented team: the victories of rather weak teams at the 2021 and 2023 World Cups only reinforced this opinion. But in 2026 everything seems to be different: perhaps for the first time in hockey history, the Americans will have the most talented and deep team.
Sportsnet’s USA Team Roster for the Four Nations Tournament Goalkeepers: Connor Hellebuyck, Thatcher Demko, Jeremy Swayman.
Defenders: Quinn Hughes – Adam Fox Zach Werenski – Charlie McAvoy Jaccob Slavin – Jake Trouba.
Forward: Matthew Tkachuk – Auston Matthews – Alex DeBrincat JT Miller – Jack Hughes – Jason Robertson Jake Guentzel – Jack Eichel – Brady Tkachuk Kyle Connor – Tage Thompson – Clayton Keller.
The U.S. team has won only four senior tournaments in its history: the 1933 World Cup gold seems prehistoric, and the 1960 Olympic medal does, too. The legendary “Miracle on Ice” of 1980 was largely a consequence of the fact that Herb Brooks’ team played and trained with this composition throughout the year: it was a “super barracks” with excellent teamwork, which also had Good luck at the decisive moment. In 1996, the Americans won the World Cup, and it is significant that that team was many times inferior to the Canadians in terms of talent, and the top scorer was a purebred Canadian and the son of a Canadian legend, Brett Hull.
Team USA at the 1980 Olympic Games
Photo: Steve Powell/Getty Images
Now everything is different. All the same, the goalkeeping position of the Americans rarely faltered: now the goalkeepers of the “Stars and Stripes”, together with Russia, train most of the best goalkeepers in the NHL. While Shesterkin, Sorokin and the entire Russian company suddenly experienced a collective decline, two Vezina favorites represent America: Connor Hellebuyck and Thatcher Demko. The third in this company could be Jake Ettinger, who has not yet reached his maximum, or Jeremy Swayman, who is little by little regaining the number one position in Boston. The depth is crazy, I don’t even want to remember the Canadian torment in this position.
In defense, the Americans can beat the Canadian Makar with his Quinn Hughes, and there is a chance that in a couple of years the second brother will develop at a high level. And if legendary Canadian “grandfathers” like Pietrangelo and Doughty not only leave the fair, but have already passed their peak, then Americans like McAvoy and Fox (by the way, the owner of “Norris”) have not even reached it . still. Additionally, the United States may have one of the league’s best hosts in Slavin, and one of the league’s highest-paid defensemen, Seth Jones, is at risk of simply not making the roster.
Perhaps the Americans are only second in terms of superstars: if McDavid can be beaten by Matthews (although these players are of different styles), then the United States does not have its own MacKinnon or Bedard. But the United States has depth: if you take the fourth line in the Sportsnet version, then they have a man who broke the 30-goal mark five times (Connor), one of the most talented passers in recent years, who does not pass unnoticed. for playing in a useless game. “Arizona” (Keller), and one of the main sensations of the league in recent years (Thompson). In another version, the four American center backs look like Matthews, Hughes, Eichel and Larkin: also very, very solid. In ESPN’s December version, the fourth line features JT Miller, who has scored more than a point per game three years in a row in Vancouver.
However, while the Americans look incredible right now in terms of pure talent, they look questionable on other factors. First, the United States does not have a winning tradition: most of the players on this squad came through the NTDP and became world champions at the under-18 level, but this did not always carry over to the youth level. We won’t even talk about the adult level: you can always say “no one needs the World Cup in America”, but the truth is that since 1994 there have been 12 different American teams with very different compositions (both “students” and with a lot of NHL stars ) lost all 12 semi-finals, says a lot. Also, the last time the Americans beat the Canadians in a knockout game was… 2001: Five losses later.
United States – Canada match in the semifinals of the 2014 Olympic Games
Photo: Martin Rose/Getty Images
There are also questions for the person who will form this team in the general manager role. Bill Guerin has been taking a lot of well-deserved criticism lately for the fact that Minnesota has clearly become callous under him. Instead of relying on youth and speed, the “savages” recruit guys with the philosophy “Hulk to destroy, Hulk to break”, wasting the best years of Kirill Kaprizov. Additionally, in the summer, Guérin granted generous contract extensions to the collective Marcus Foligno, thus filling the Wild’s already sad payroll. You can remember how in 2016 the Americans got into a puddle when they brought Brandon Dubinsky and Justin Abdelkader to the national team, leaving Phil Kessel eating hot dogs on the couch and provoking management on social media.
Which American stars can be removed from the national team this time:
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Furthermore, there is still a huge gap between the United States and Canada in terms of the quantity and quality of the coaching staff: even free Canadian mentors can be used to form a super coaching staff. Of the NHL’s 32 head coaches, only eight represent the United States, and now only three are in the playoff zone: the almost eternal Peter Laviolette and John Tortorella, as well as Derek Lalonde, who is spending his second season as head coach. Mike Sullivan, after his double with Pittsburgh, never won a playoff series – a so-so resume for a potential coach.
Lastly, as they say in the United States themselves, last, but not least. All of the United States’ successes in major tournaments occurred only on American soil: after 1998, Americans did not win any Olympic medals in Games held outside their home continent. Of course, now the IIHF will hold the Milan tournament in venues of the NHL format, but the geographical factor cannot be ruled out.
Herb Brooks said of the team that created the “Miracle on Ice”: “You don’t have enough talent to win on that alone.” Now the American team has the opposite: plenty of talent, but the rest is questionable. Will pure craftsmanship be enough to obtain the gold that the country has been waiting for for a long time?