Phil Kessel undeterred by Sochi safety concerns | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaPhil Kessel undeterred by Sochi safety concerns

Posted: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 | 03:45 PM

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Phil Kessel admits to feeling some apprehension about the threat of terrorism at the Sochi Olympics. But in the end, patriotism wins out for the U.S. forward. (Harry How/Getty Images) Phil Kessel admits to feeling some apprehension about the threat of terrorism at the Sochi Olympics. But in the end, patriotism wins out for the U.S. forward. (Harry How/Getty Images)

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With the Sochi Winter Olympics just days from beginning, the threat of terrorism has cast a pall over the event. Already, a number of NHL players have indicated they will leave their family members and friends at home.
To go or not to go. That is the question.

With the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia just days from beginning, the threat of terrorism has cast a pall over the event.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league is comfortable with the security measures that are being taken, but if "something significant" were to happen between now and Feb. 9, when NHL players are due to head over to Russia, the decision to send players to the Games could be re-evaluated.

Already, a number of NHL players who will be participating in the Games have indicated they will go to Sochi but leave their family members and friends at home. It started with Canadian goalies Roberto Luongo and Mike Smith, and on Wednesday American star Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs said only he and his sister Amanda, who plays for the U.S. Olympic women's hockey team, will be going to Russia. The rest of their family will remain in the States.

"I'm not bringing anyone from my family," Kessel said following the Leafs' practice Wednesday. "I just thought it was better this way."

Kessel was asked how he feels about the threat of terrorism and admitted he feels some trepidation about going to the Olympics. But in the end, patriotism wins out.

"I'm a little nervous, but I trust that they have it pretty well handled and we'll see how it goes," Kessel said. "I think it is a real honour playing for your country. All the guys love to do that. It's a really neat experience when you get the chance to represent your country and I love playing for my country."

Maple Leafs right-winger Nikolai Kulemin was born in Magnitogorsk, Russia and will represent his country in the Games. While he acknowledges the threat of terrorism, he is not going to let it ruin his experience.

"It always happens at big events that people start talking about security and safety," Kulemin said. "I think Russia is going to do a good job and prevent all of this stuff. I'm not really worried about it."

Maple Leafs defenceman Cody Franson won't be playing in the Olympic Games, but said if he were, he'd be a little on edge.

"I'd be a little concerned," Franson said. "You watch the stuff on TV and it raises some speculation, for sure. They showed a bomb going off in a building the other day and it's not something you can just ignore.

"Obviously you don't want to give up the chance to play for your country, but at the same time you can't ignore all the talk."

Added teammate Carl Gunnarsson of Sweden, who also won't participate in the Games: "It's tough to ignore. It's a little bit scary."

Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said allowing players to participate in the Olympic Games is a league initiative and he is confident the NHL will do what it sees fit in terms of following through on allowing the players to go to Russia or, in an extreme measure, pulling out.

"I am sure the security in place is going to be scrutinized to an even higher level as we go and I am sure the NHL would not send our players into an environment that they feel they don't have control of," Carlyle said.

Bolland watch

Injured Leafs centre David Bolland continues to train on the ice on his own before practice.

While trying to make it back from a severed tendon, Bolland's progress has been expectedly slow. He struggles when putting weight on his left ankle. It has been reported the recovery time for such an injury takes up to six months. While it is his desire to get back playing this season, it would not be surprising if the year is a write-off.

Secondary scoring

Even though it was the team's No. 1 line of Kessel, James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak that supplied the team with the game-winning goal against Tampa Bay Tuesday night, the second line of Nazekm Kadri, Joffrey Lupul and Nikolai Kulemin came through with a pair of goals.

Carlyle said one of the reason why the Maple Leafs have been winning their share of games of late is because the lineup has become more settled.

Certainly the third line of Peter Holland between Troy Bodie and Mason Raymond has been doing some fine work.

"We think Bodie has made a huge contribution and Holland has come in and provided us with some offence and Raymond is a dangerous player every time he's on the ice," Carlyle said.

Gleason makes progress


Defenceman Tim Gleason left Tuesday's game with a suspected shoulder injury and missed practice Wednesday.

Gleason had x-rays of his shoulder area and everything was negative. He also had a scan Wednesday morning, but Carlyle said he hadn't received results. The coach said he expects Gleason will play against Florida Thursday night.

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