The 2013-2014 NHL season schedule features a sizable gap between February 8-24. This, of course, is because 2014 is an Olympic year and players will be headed to Sochi to represent their countries.
Ice Hockey in the Winter Olympics is one of the greatest sporting events on Earth and it can lead to a fair amount of nail-biting, but not only for fans. Management back home are left with nothing to do but helplessly plead to the Hockey Gods that their rosters return home healthy and intact.
The Winter Olympics began in 1924, the same year Charles Adams convinced the National Hockey League to expand into the United States, starting in Boston, Massachusetts. However, NHL players were not permitted to play in the tournament until 1998. Here's a comprehensive look at how the Bruins have fared in Olympic years since then.
39-30-13, 5th in Eastern Conference, Eliminated in Conference Quarterfinals
Bruins players in 1998 tournament:
Team Canada: Ray Bourque (6 GP, 1G, 2A, 3P, +8)
After selecting Joe Thornton and Sergei Samsonov in the first round of the 1997 NHL draft, the Bruins were able to rebound from a catastrophic season just a year prior. With Pat Burns behind the bench, Boston finished second in the Northeast division. Eventually Boston would be eliminated in the Conference Quarterfinals by Washington in six games.
Ray Bourque was Boston's lone representative at the 1998 Olympics.
Gold Medal Team: Czech Republic
Silver Medal Team: Russia
Bronze Medal Team: Finland
43-24-6, 1st in Eastern Conference, Eliminated in Conference Quarterfinals
Bruins players in 2002 tournament:
Team USA: Bill Guerin (6 GP, 4G, 0A, 4P, +1), Brian Rolston (6 GP, 0G, 3A, 3P, +/-0)
Team Russia: Sergei Samsonov (6 GP, 1G, 2A, 3P, +1)
Team Slovakia: Jozef Stumpel (2 GP, 2G, 1A, 3P, +2)
Team Sweden: P.J. Axelsson (4 GP, 0G, 0A, 0P, -1)
Classic early 2000s Bruins team featuring the NHL Hitz 2003 lineup of Joe Thornton, Bill Guerin, Brian Rolston, with Byron Dafoe between the pipes. Boston clinched the Eastern Conference with 101 points, took a 3-1 series lead over Montreal in the Conference Quarterfinals, only to fall in seven games. Sergei Samsonov's 70 points led the team.
Gold Medal Team: Canada
Silver Medal Team: United States (feat. Bill Guerin, Brian Rolston)
Bronze Medal Team: Russia (feat. Sergei Samsonov)
29-37-16, 13th overall in Eastern Conference
Bruins players in 2006 tournament:
Team Sweden: P.J. Axelsson (8 GP, 3G, 3A, 6P, +/-0)
Woof. Dark days. The '06 season will always be remembered for the Joe Thornton trade, but youngster Patrice Bergeron did score 31 goals, and goaltender Tim Thomas showed glimpses of what was to follow in the next six years.
Meanwhile, Swedish Olympic hero (and new head of European Scouting!) P.J. Axelsson finished third on the team in points, over the likes of Henrik Zetterberg, Peter Forsberg, and the Sedin twins.
Gold Medal Team: Sweden (feat. P.J. Axelsson)
Silver Medal Team: Finland
Bronze Medal Team: Czech Republic
39-30-13, 6th in Eastern Conference, eliminated in Conference Semi-Finals
Bruins players in 2011 tournament:
Team Canada: Patrice Bergeron (7 GP, 0G, 1A, 1P, -2)
Team USA: Tim Thomas (1 GP, 5.00 GAA, 0.857 Save %)
Team Czech Republic: David Krejci (5 GP, 2G, 1A, 3P, +2)
Team Germany: Marco Sturm (4 GP, 0G, 1A, 1P, -2)
Team Slovakia: Zdeno Chara (7 GP, 0G, 3A, 3P, +/-0), Miroslav Satan (6 GP, 1G, 1A, 2P, -2)
The topsy, turvy, exciting-then-frustrating-then-back-again 2009-2010 campaign saw the Bruins end a ten game winless streak by beginning a four game winning streak just as the league paused for the winter games. USA backup net minder Tim Thomas battled a hip injury that would eventually cost him the starting job in Boston to Tuukka Rask, only for Thomas to reclaim it the following season. The 2010 Bruins' mediocre play continued for the rest of the regular season, and into a playoff run that concluded with…well, never mind that…
Gold Medal Team: Canada (feat. Patrice Bergeron)
Silver Medal Team: United States (feat. Tim Thomas)
Bronze Medal Team: Finland
So there you have it. Interesting to note that while several Boston Bruins players past (Joe Thornton) and present (Jarome Iginla) have won Olympic gold, only two have done so while playing in Boston: P.J. Axelsson and Patrice Bergeron. It will be interesting to see if there's an addition to that list in 2014.