Wednesday's column on the Kings and Ducks players bound for the Olympics used just a fraction of the material I gathered at the morning skates prior to Monday's Kings-Ducks games. I wanted to pass on a bit more, touching on some different topics.
One of the concepts that interested a number of reporters -- and fans, too, I'd bet -- is the idea of players who are NHL teammates suddenly becoming opponents. It's going to happen a lot; on the tournament's first day, the Ducks' Bobby Ryan and Ryan Whitney will be playing against Switzerland, with Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller. And Kings and Ducks players will be on both sides of the U.S.-Canada game that concludes group play on Feb. xx.
To the extent they're talking about this at all, the players are, so far, joking about it. Teemu Selanne said he'd "get off the ice" when Ryan Getzlaf gets on, although in truth, that matchup may not happen: Finland and Canada are in different groups, meaning they'd have to meet in the medal round.
But for the most part, the players (and their coaches) think this is no big deal.
"You get used to that," said Anaheim defenseman Scott Niedermayer, who will captain Team Canada, "because during the year you'll be sitting next to a guy, and he's traded, and the next week you'll be playing against him. So you get used to that.
"It's part of pro sports, and we all understand that when you're out there, you're competing hard. I don't think anybody gets too concerned about that. You're out there; you're trying to help your team win."
Agreed Ducks coach Randy Carlyle, "It's what it is. It's like your schedule. You don't get to pick and choose. Somebody else gets to do that for you. .... We have players that are going to compete against one another. But again, they're hockey players. It's not the first time they've competed against their teammates or former teammates, and it's not the first time they've competed against friends. That's the unique thing about sports."
And, added, Kings coach Terry Murray, "They're premiere athletes, they're world-class athletes. It's not only the physical game; it's the attitude you have to bring in order to play in those kinds of situations.
"So you've got to be able to put some stuff away with the door and lock the door and throw the key away. And now we're playing in this environment here.
"For me as a player, thinking back, you just do it. You play hard against everybody."
Most of the Olympic players said they had, as yet, given the Olympics little thought, being in the middle of a crowded final week of NHL competition before the two-week Olympic break.
"You know what, the only thing I have been thinking about the Olympics so far," said Teemu Selanne, "is we have to fill the papers to WADA, the [World Anti-Doping Agency, which conducts drug tests], where we have to be available one hour every day somewhere, and you have to fill out everything and think of where you're going to be that day. That's the only thing I have really think about with the Olympics, but ... now, I have to start thinking about what equipment, what stuff I need there."
For the most part, such logistical concerns have already been taken care of, said the Kings' Dustin Brown. Ticket issues, for example, have long since been addressed.
"I mean, I'm sure there's still a few loose ends, but for the most part, everything's taken care of," he said. "That way I wouldn't have to worry about it come right now."
The one player who readily admitted to thinking ahead to the Olympics was Kings defenseman Drew Doughty.
"Yeah, I don't think it's a bad thing if I think about it a bit," he said, "Obviously, it's not my first priority right now. I just want to get these games over with the Kings, get as many wins as we can, and play well for then, and then when I fly out there on the 14th, I'll obviously switch and be all Hockey Canada at that time.
"But, yeah, I find it's not a bad thing to think about here and there."
There are certainly reasons for NHL coaches to be concerned about Olympics: Will it tire players out? Will someone significant get hurt?
But Carlyle and Murray were both pretty-low key about the topic.
"I look at it that it's an honor to play for your country," said Carlyle, "and first and foremost, what are they? They're hockey players, and they're getting a chance to play. And I think if you asked anybody if they'd forego the Olympic experience to take the time off, they would all want to participate. So I think it's a positive. I don't look at it as a negative at all."
Murray, when asked if he'd be watching nervously as his players participated, said he wasn't sure he'd be watching at all.
"I'm going to take some time and just get away from hockey, get a break," he said. "It's exciting, I might try to catch the odd game, but I'm not going to write it down on a schedule in a ledger and say this is what I've got to do at this moment. I'll look at the end results."
Murray does believe the Olympic experience can only help players develop, citing one of the more famous cases of a player developing in international competition as an example.
"I always remember whenever the Canada Cup was in Hamilton, Ontario [in 1987]. Mario Lemieux scored the winning goal, and that experience for him, I remember some of the quotes, taught him how to take it to the next level, playing with (Wayne) Gretzky on that line -- the importance of every shift, and how you do things the right way all the time.
"That certainly is extreme to the one side of it," he admitted, but figures the players should gain confidence from the experience, as well as learning from being around "the world-class players they're going to be practicing with, and how they handle themselves in the locker room, how they talk, and how they practice, and then the game itself.
"You're going to have to make sure you're focused, bringing total concentration every minute you're at the rink with those teams. That's a skill."
And, he said, the only way to learn how to handle big-game situations, ultimately, is to be in them.
"You've never been there as a player, you don't know," he said. "Even listening to someone talk about it, you don't know. You have to go through it. You have to actually get on the ice and live through it and take away, I think, just loads of information from those kinds of experiences for Doughty, in particular.
"If he's going to be one of the six defensemen as a 20-year-old, it's going to give him a good boost to his development as he moves forward in his career, and it's going to be memories he'll have the rest of his life."