Gold tilt a must-see for Steen
TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

Arising before 8 a.m., on a Sunday is a strange concept for most 21-year-old men, but Alex Steen gladly was planning to do it this morning.

But would Steen miss watching his Swedish countrymen and arch-rival Finland duke it out in the gold-medal match in Turin, which was to begin at 8?

Not a chance.

"It's a huge deal," Steen said. "It's going to be huge if they are able to win the gold medal and, even if they get a silver, it is a big accomplishment.

"Swedish guys don't like the Finnish guys and the other way around. It is a big rivalry, so it is always fun when the two nations meet."

Either way, a Leaf will return with a gold medal. Mats Sundin and Mikael Tellqvist are with Sweden while Aki Berg is with Finland.

But Steen said the excitement has not caused him to look forward to 2010 when, in all likelihood, he will play for Sweden at the Olympics in Vancouver.

"Not really," Steen said. "Right now, I am rooting for them and, after that, it is a 100% focus on what I have to do here. (The 2010 Olympics) is too far away to be thinking about right now."

Naturally, he was keeping his fingers crossed for Sundin.

"He is one of our biggest stars in any sport back home," Steen said. "Mats is going to go into history as one of the greatest hockey players in Swedish history."

STAY HOME

Leafs winger Jeff O'Neill appreciates the level of hockey at the Olympics, but thinks NHL players shouldn't be participating.

"I've never been a big fan of it," O'Neill said. "The Olympic spirit, to me, is the amateur athlete. I don't know why professional guys are going. If something ever happened to one of our guys (with an injury), it would be devastating."

SKILLS DAY

The Leafs -- at least those who aren't in Turin -- will conduct their annual skills competition today at 4 p.m., at the Air Canada Centre.

The players will be competing in events such as fastest skater, shooting accuracy, breakaway relay and puck control relay.