The puck finds a familiar place behind Ondrej Pavelec

The puck finds a familiar place behind Ondrej Pavelec

The 2014 Men’s Olympic hockey tournament kicks off on Wednesday, but we’ll have to wait until Thursday to get a look at the defending champions. There’s a short amount of time and a lot for Canadians to learn about the 11 teams that will be competing for the silver medal. Below is a handy guide of reference points for the rest of the competition in Sochi.

Austria

The Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders, and Team Austria. What an unforgettable 2013-14 for Thomas Vanek. Next stop: Edmonton?

Czech Republic

Tip your cap to the Winnipeg Jets for sacrificing NHL success in favor of the long con by masquerading Ondrej Pavelec as a legitimate goaltender. Former Canadian Olympian Petr Nedvěd is a two-time traitor.

Finland

We’ll see how the world’s goalie factory fares without some maple syrup in front of it.

Latvia

With Ted Nolan behind the bench and Sandis Ozoliņš on the roster, look for Latvia to pull off an upset at the 1998 Winter Games.

Norway

Norway is really good at skiing and skating and stuff but its hockey team hasn’t beaten Canada in like three decades. Mats Zuccarello is kinda cool, though.

Russia

This enigmatic lot head into the tournament with a unique game plan that involves almost no passing and a sudden outbreak of waterborne illness for Team Canada. You can’t spell “Russian gold” without “Russian doping scandal.”

Slovakia

Chara’s team.

Slovenia

Slovenia already captured the gold medal for best Olympic last names. You have your Rodman boys, a Music, and a Prince. It’s sink or swim for Anze Kopitar, who could be left powerless without the aid of teammates like Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Justin Williams, and Drew Doughty.

Sweden

Sign says ‘Must Be This Detroit to Play.’ Canadian hero Don Cherry isn’t right about everything, but historically speaking, his views on Swedish hockey players are 110% accurate. Sweden left Victor Hedman off the roster for fear that he might hit someone. It’s a bit of double standard when you consider that they have no problem with Alexander Edler decapitating opponents or Niklas Kronwall blind-siding players with his butt.

Switzerland

Switzerland!

USA

The United States represents the biggest threat to take down Canada. Sure, Joe Pavelski’s heart and hustle is inflated by the mere presence of great leaders like his teammates Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, and Marc-Édouard Vlasic in San Jose, but the Americans boast a lot of depth at the college boy position. Gone are slow-footed defensemen from the 2010 games like Tim Gleason, Mike Komisarek, and Brooks Orpik. They’ve been cast aside in favor of quick, offensive-minded players like Keith Yandle and possession monsters like Dustin Byfuglien. A potential Yandle-Byfuglien pairing could be the tournament’s best defensive duo. Miller, McDonagh, Suter, Callahan, and Kesler makes five. Ryan’s not a sir name, bud.