Five Flyers excited to play in Olympics

Posted: February 10, 2014

Representing their countries has special meaning for the five Flyers who will compete in the Sochi Olympics, but it has extra significance for two of the participants: wingers Jake Voracek and Michael Raffl.

The first time, you see, is usually the best.

Voracek, representing the Czech Republic, and Raffl (Austria) are rookies to the Olympic Games.

"This is what every kid dreams of, and it's going to be very exciting," Voracek said. "Since I was a kid, I was watching the Olympics on TV, the best players in the world . . . so this is really something."

"If you think too much about it, time goes slower" before the Games arrive, Raffl said. "I'm not nervous. I'm excited. I'm really looking forward to going there. Not everybody gets a chance to play in the Olympics, so it's something great."

Austria is an extreme long shot to win a medal.

"I don't think we're going for gold," Raffl said, "but at the same time, you're not going into a tournament willing to lose."

Flyers defensemen Kimmo Timonen (Finland), Mark Streit (Switzerland), and Andrej Meszaros (Slovakia) are also headed to the Olympics.

Voracek figured he had a good chance to play in the 2010 Games in Vancouver because he was having a breakout season in Columbus.

"I played pretty well, but unfortunately, I didn't make the team; we had a great team then, as well," said Voracek, who will be reunited with his boyhood idol, former Flyer Jaromir Jagr, on the Czech Republic team. "But I was pretty confident that if I kept working on my game and kept working hard, I would have a chance to make it in four years. It's here right now, and like they say, it's a dream come true."

Timonen will be competing in his fifth Olympics, Streit will be in his fourth, and Meszaros will be in his third.

And while they may not be as wide-eyed as Raffl and Voracek, all of them are deeply proud to be playing for their respective countries.

"This is my last," Timonen said last month. "It's not 'might be.' This is my last time to put on that Finnish jersey, so it is a special time for me."

"I feel honored and blessed," Streit said. "You play it every four years, and once it comes up, you're really excited, obviously, and you live in the moment. You don't have the national competition anymore because there's no World Cup, so I think it's great for hockey overall."

"It never gets old. I feel like I'm going for the first time," said Meszaros, who wasn't playing much earlier in the NHL season and was informed he made the Olympics after he returned to the Flyers lineup for a long stretch of games. "It's every four years, not every year like the world championships, so it's unique and I'm glad I can go."

Streit thinks the Swiss - who lost to Sweden in last spring's title game in the IIHF world championships - can make some noise in the Olympics.

"Swiss hockey has come a long way the past 10, 12, 15 years," he said. ". . . We did excellent at the last world championships. It will be a different competition, but I think we can play with a lot of confidence."

Timonen, who has been battling a bruised left foot, said it is challenging to decompress after the Games and get back into the NHL schedule.

"It's not really the emotion; it's more the time change," he said. "If you play every game there, it is 10 games in seven days. And you have a nine-hour time change and nine-hour flight . . . and it usually takes nine or 10 days to get used to the time change."

Added Timonen: "It's a busy time over there. It is not like you go there and have a couple days off, play a game and have a couple more days off. It's like game, game, day off, game, game, day off. Then once you get used to the time change, you have to fly back here and start playing more games.

"That's what makes you mentally tired. It's not really the emotion of the Olympics."

Unless, that is, you come home with gold.


scarchidi@phillynews.com

@BroadStBull

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