Austria realistic about chances, won't be 'scared' when facing Canada
Team Austria gathers around the goal before playing Finland in a men's ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. (AP / Mark Humphrey )
Stephen Whyno, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, February 14, 2014 3:17AM EST
SOCHI, Russia -- Manny Viveiros figures he won't have to give a rousing pre-game speech before Austria takes on Canada in men's Olympic hockey.
"It's their Stanley Cup," the Edmonton native said. "You don't need to say a whole lot.
"Maybe you have to go out and kind of bring them down a little bit more than anything."
Maybe emotionally, but the Austrians get it.
"If you're realistic, Austria should never have a chance against Canada," forward Michael Raffl said recently. "You can't go in there like that. You want to win. But you know your chances."
Canada earned a 3-1 win over Norway on Thursday in the tournament-opening game for both countries. The Canadians will face Austria on Friday.
Austria, which lost its opener 8-4 to Finland, really is happy to be in Sochi and playing in the Olympics for the first time since 2002 in Salt Lake City. This is a chance to show something to fans back home and try to get hockey closer to the popularity levels of skiing and soccer.
Austria has three NHL players in Raffl, Thomas Vanek and Michael Grabner, who had a hat-trick against Finland. Raffl said just having a star like Vanek makes the sport more popular back home.
In addition to wanting to grow the game, the Austrians don't want to act like they're here to be doormats.
"We were used to, a lot of times, so to speak, kind of failure -- expected to lose all the time," Viveiros said. "We decided or said we have to change something in the identity or the cultural thinking of the attitude.
"Instead of just coming to these tournaments and just taking part, we have to put pressure on ourselves that we possibly do something in these tournaments."
Do something might just mean hanging in there against Canada. Raffl recalled losing 11-0 to Sweden, something he doesn't want to repeat.
"It could be -- it was -- ugly," Raffl said. "We just never touched the puck. It wasn't real fun."
Viveiros is conscious of that concern going into the game against his native country. He'd like his players to have a little belief.
"Our approach is obviously we have so much respect, but we can't be scared of them," Viveiros said. "We can't just sit and watch and be in awe."
Forgive the Austrians if they're just a bit in awe of the whole experience of being at the Olympics. This is kind of a new thing for them, and Raffl wants to appreciate that.
"I like the underdog role," he said. "I don't know how we're going to end up, but everything's positive for Austria and hockey."