Up until now, the Russians have been quietly competing here at their Olympic Games.

No major breakout moments, not much over the top bravado, no domination of unexpected events. But yesterday, the Russians finally put their cards on the table.

Just like all of the other men’s hockey teams here at the Games, the Russians held a press conference in the Main Press Centre.

While the Canadians, Americans, Fins etc. had four or five players sit and answer questions, the Russians decided to make a statement.

They marched in the entire Olympic hockey team. The players, the coaches, the head of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation.

What did they say?

”Every match is the finals for us… it is the final match, it doesn’t matter who plays us.”

Translation: We plan on winning this tournament. We are the ones to beat.

If you are Canadian, you understand what it is to be a hockey fan. Most of us in Canada remember being allowed to stay up past our bedtimes to watch the end of the Western games on Hockey Night in Canada. We also remember watching Canada at the Worlds, the Juniors and the Olympics. Living and dying with every goal, every penalty, every big hit.

You might think we are the only ones who are that hockey crazy. Well, we aren’t.

While we were winning in 1972 – the hearts of Russians were breaking. When the U.S. had their “Miracle Moment” – the Russians were ashamed. When Canada won on home ice in Vancouver – they were preparing for Sochi.

Russian Hockey

Alex Ovechkin, Russia’s best player by far, isn’t one to say too much more than the sports cliches. But Wednesday, when asked about losing in 2010, he surprised the room saying: ”When we lost to the Canadians it was a huge blow to us, it was a big failure, it was a big blow to everyone in Russia.”

Talk to the men and women on the streets in Sochi and they have their own memories of hockey supremacy.

For our Ken Dryden, they have Vladislav Tretiak. We have Paul Henderson, they have Valery Kharlamov. Viacheslav Fetisov, Anatoly Firsov, Sergei Fedorov, Vsevolod Bobrov, Pavel Bure and the list goes on and on and on.

So while the Canadian men’s hockey team walks in as the Defending Olympic Champions, supported by 33 million hockey-mad fans back home, the Russians are coming too!

And they have 40 years of upsets and disappointments fueling them. Plus, just as many, if not more hockey fans waving the flag of the Russian Federation!

How do you think the Russians will do in Sochi?