Leafs' Olympians get the itch

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:43 PM ET

Olympic fever is starting to sweep through the Maple Leafs’ dressing room.

The Leafs play in St. Louis on Friday night against the Blues and the majority will scatter to various parts of North America on Saturday, returning to their off-season homes for a few days or heading south to catch some rays.

Of course, some Leafs will be heading to Vancouver to compete for their respective nations in the 2010 Winter Olympics.

For those such as American forward Phil Kessel and Swedish goalie Jonas Gustavsson, the Olympics will represent something they’ve never experienced in their hockey lives.

“I don’t see myself as an Olympian yet, but when I get there, when I see how big everything is, I will realize where I am,” Gustavsson said. “The closer you get, the more you think about it.”

Gustavsson will return to Toronto with his teammates late Friday night and head to Vancouver on Saturday morning.

“There are going to be tons of people and it is going to be pretty raucous,” Kessel said. “I think it will be a cool atmosphere. My family is coming and I am excited for them to experience it.”

Leafs coach Ron Wilson, who will guide the U.S. team, had some urgent matters on his hands. He is trying to a secure a ticket for the opening ceremonies for his daughter, who lives in Vancouver.

“I’m negotiating with someone on Craigslist for a ticket,” Wilson said. “We don’t get free tickets like everybody thinks and we don’t get paid to do this. None of the athletes do.”

Wilson won’t have much time to do so, but he plans to get out to be a spectator at some of the other events.

“I’m going to try my best to go to some other events and take my granddaughter to women’s hockey, figure skating,” he said. “When you have daughters and granddaughters, you really appreciate the opportunities that are out there for women now and I want her to have an experience that she’ll always remember.”

Defenceman Tomas Kaberle also will participate, playing in his third Olympics for the Czech Republic. Mike Komisarek (U.S.) and Mikhail Grabovski (Belarus) had been set to play until they were injured.

The Leafs aren’t scheduled to practise again in Toronto until Feb. 24, giving them five days of on-ice workouts prior to their first post-Olympic game on March 2 at home against the Carolina Hurricanes.

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca


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