SOCHI, Russia — With roughly two-thirds of its roster playing abroad in the NHL and the rest in the domestic Kontinental Hockey League, the Team Russia hockey team will arrive in Sochi in two waves, making for some potentially awkward preparations for the 2014 Winter Games.
The first to arrive, on Saturday, will be the KHL contingent of nine players, headed by former Atlanta Thrashers and New Jersey Devils star Ilya Kovalchuk. These nine players, along with some non-roster reinforcements, will scrimmage Sunday against Switzerland, according to Mikhail Zakharov, media manager for the Russian national team, as they await their teammates. The KHL began its Olympics break following Thursday night’s games, while the NHL schedule goes through Saturday.
Russia’s 16 NHL Olympians, including Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, will begin arriving Monday morning on four charter flights organized by the NHL Players Association to transport the league’s Olympians to Sochi. Ovechkin will arrive on a roll; he scored his 40th goal Thursday night against the Winnipeg Jets. The Olympic men’s hockey tournament, which will be one of the focal points of the Sochi Games, begins on Wednesday, with Russia playing its first game on Thursday against Slovenia.
According to Zakharov, the Russians have been monitoring the condition of star center Pavel Datsyuk, who suited up Thursday night for the Detroit Red Wings after missing the previous 13 games with an unspecified lower-body injury.
“We don’t know much more than we read in the newspapers,” Zakharov said of Datsyuk’s availability during the Sochi Games. “But our doctors have remained in touch with him.”
Minnesota Wild center Mikko Koivu decided his surgically repaired right ankle has not healed enough to allow him to play for Finland in the Olympics.
Koivu, who had surgery after fracturing his right ankle while blocking a shot on Jan. 4, has been out the past 15 games for Minnesota heading into the Olympic break.
Koivu, a two-time Olympian, was one of his country’s most experienced players and a possible captain for Finland, which won the bronze medal in the 2010 Games in Vancouver.
A captain for the Wild, Koivu has eight goals and 27 assists in 44 games.
Many fans had to wait in line for hours Friday to pick up tickets for the Sochi Olympics.
On the day of the Opening Ceremonies that kick off 17 days of sport, long queues, made up mostly of Russians, snaked into ticket collection points in and around the Russian Black Sea resort hosting the Games.
Organizers said the queues formed in part because local residents from Sochi, who could have picked up their tickets months ago, waited until the last minute and had to wait with thousands of visitors from elsewhere in Russia who are pouring into town for the Games.
Oksana Yeguryan, from Adler on Sochi’s outskirts, said she waited for four hours to collect her 20,000-ruble ($578) ticket for the Opening Ceremonies, only to be told she would have to come back a day later to buy more tickets.
“I’m frustrated,” she said. “I spent four hours waiting to pick up my ticket and now I have to come back tomorrow and wait for four more hours.”
Sochi Olympic organizers said more than 80 percent of tickets to events have been sold. Russian spectators have been allocated 70 percent of the total available.
Ticket collection points are operating at Sochi’s airport, at railway stations in downtown Sochi and at the Olympic Park in Adler. Tickets bought online also could be picked up in Moscow.
Organizers said tickets also can be collected at booking offices at the Olympic Park and mountain transportation hubs and in the hours before competitions start at the coastal and mountain complexes.
On the official Web site for the Games, organizers announced: “Dear spectators! Additional Ticket Box Offices are opened for your convenience.”
The Games are divided between stadiums on the Black Sea coast, for events like hockey, figure skating and speed skating, and the mountain cluster of slopes and tracks for Alpine events.
Sergey Galkin traveled some 2,800 kilometers (1,740 miles) from Yekaterinburg in the Ural mountains to pick up 50,000 rubles ($1,437) worth of biathlon, ski jumping and luge tickets for him and his son.
After that cross-country trek, he was stoic about a few more hours in line.
“What can you do?” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.