Russians dejected after Olympic hockey loss to Finland
Host nation will finish without medal in men's hockey
Sochi's Bolshoy Ice Dome was much quieter than usual on Wednesday.
Dejection, lifeless expressions permeated the atmosphere. The collective disappointed sigh of thousands of fans filled the arena after the horn sounded, the Russian flags painted on their faces trying to hold form in the face of oncoming tears.
The host Russians had just been knocked out of the Olympic men’s hockey tournament by Finland in a 3-1 defeat.
And perhaps nobody felt the burden of defeat more than superstar Alex Ovechkin, arguably the face of Russian hockey.
And while most of the Russian hockey team stormed through the media zone after the game, according to Hockey Night in Canada's Elliotte Friedman, the Washington Capitals sniper was the only one to face his critics.
“I know we have lots of pressure [on us],” Ovechkin said. “The coaching staff, the team…but I don’t know what to say.”
But he didn’t have to say much.
His listless expression told the entire story. It also represented the heartbreak of millions of Russian hockey fans, hoping to be celebrating an Olympic gold medal.
For the Russian squad, shouldering the collective hopes of an entire nation, anything less than gold in hockey was unacceptable. A failure. But after falling to the Finns, that became a reality.
The Bolshoy Ice Dome had a much different post-game look, too.
— David Common (@davidcommon) February 19, 2014
A blank feeling was what plenty of other fans were likely feeling, too, including the Sochi Bear.
— Sochi 2014 (@Sochi2014) February 19, 2014
The sentiment was echoed by Russian captain Pavel Datsyuk, who returned to his NHL club — the Detroit Red Wings — from injury just a couple of games before the Olympics.
Winning and representing his country at the Winter Games came first. Losing? Not what Datsyuk had envisioned.
Instead of feeling elation, he was left wondering what could have been.
"The emotion we feel right now is disappointment," Datsyuk said. "Disappointment that we didn't live up to the hopes placed on us.
"There were great hopes placed on us and we didn't live up to them. All the boys did all they could today."
Datsyuk also said he "didn't know" how long it would take him to get over the loss.
Boasting a high-powered offence and a plethora of talent, Russia has now failed to win an Olympic medal since the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, when they earned a bronze.
They will have to wait at least another four years for their next shot at a podium spot in men’s hockey.