N.H.L.’s Retreat from the Olympics Makes Russia a Hockey Favorite

The Russian team is built almost entirely from two K.H.L. teams, Moscow CSKA and SKA St. Petersburg, coached by SKA’s current trainer, Oleg Znarok. The K.H.L. has also in some ways been built with an eye on this moment. When the N.H.L. announced it wouldn’t participate, K.H.L. officials said they would work to bring home Russian players from North America. The league is also holding its longest ever Olympics break this year.

“Everything has been done for this team to win,” Eronko said.

That doesn’t mean it will. Russia’s recent Olympic record is unpromising: crashing out to Finland in the quarterfinals at the Sochi Olympics in 2014; drubbed by Canada at the same stage at the Vancouver Games in 2010.

“The Russians are beatable,” Milan Hnilicka, the Czech Republic’s general manager, said. “They get frustrated if things don’t go their way. And I think that’s what everyone is going to try to play against.”

The Russians themselves have publicly refused to be swayed by predictions that they are favorites. They learned from the 1980 “Miracle on Ice.”

“One of the reasons we lost is we got cocky about the Americans,” said Vladimir V. Yurzinov, who was a coach for the 1980 Soviet team in Lake Placid, N.Y. “Olympics are such a thing. Anything can happen.”

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