Anticipation Builds at Hockey Venues -- On the Scene

(ATR) In a hockey-mad country like Russia, nowhere will the intensity be more heated than at the Bolshoi Ice Dome.

In a hockey-mad country like Russia, nowhere will the intensity be more heated and the tension greater than at the Bolshoi Ice Dome – the main men’s ice hockey venue – over the upcoming weeks.

On the walk up to the venue entrance in Sochi Olympic Park, you can’t miss the toothless smile of #8 Alexander Ovechkin plastered smack dab in between numerous Coca-cola vending machines.

Other than a few Zambonis making their rounds on the ice, all was relatively quiet inside the Bolshoi Ice Dome on Monday. The sleek-looking 12,000-seat arena officially opens its doors for men’s team practices come Thursday.

Slovenia – whose only NHL player is Stanley Cup winner and Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar – will practice three times before any other country arrives, with Austria next to skate on Friday.

Competition at Bolshoi starts on Wednesday evening, Feb. 12 after the National Hockey League begins their Olympic hiatus on Sunday. The Czech Republic and Sweden meet in the opening contest.

Outside between the Bolshoi Ice Dome and Shayba Arena – the venue for women’s ice hockey – the German ladies hockey team kicked around a soccer ball and did calisthenics on a sunny, but chilly Sochi afternoon.

Inside Shayba, Team Switzerland skated two practice sessions Monday, one of a few nations to take to the ice.

"When you are first time on the Olympic ice, it’s really special," said 22-year-old Swiss goalie Sophie Anthamattem.

"The arena is really good and the ice is very fast," she said. "It’s just a little hot inside."

Anthamattem’s fellow Swiss netminder Janine Alder added, "It’s hard ice out there, even after an hour there is no snow on it, so it’s reallygood.

"It’s just an amazing feeling, you couldn’t help but get nervous," Alder said about stepping onto the Olympic ice for the first time. "I wanted to stay on the ice forever."

The two young Swiss goalies will surely see a lot of pucks fired at them early in the tournament as they face-off against the three-time defending gold medalists Canada on Saturday, following the opening game between the United States and

Finland.

Walking around inside the two arenas, you can’t help but begin to imagine the loud chants that will rock the buildings – RUS-SHI-YA, RUS-SHI-YA, RUS-SHI-YA! The excitement and anticipation for the opening puck drops continues to build.

Written by Brian Pinelli in Sochi

20 Years at #1: Your best source of news about the Olympics is AroundTheRings.com, for subscribers only.