How Olympic Hockey Has Taken the World by Storm - A Special Report (NBC33 VIDEO)

By Eric DeFreeuw - NBC33

February 18, 2014 Updated Feb 18, 2014 at 7:28 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (NBC33 VIDEO) - The Winter Olympic games have a way of uniting an entire country behind one team or athlete. In no sport is that best exemplified than in ice hockey. Fans who, during the rest of the year are bitter rivals, come together for the same cause.

But for those who play it, Olympic hockey is a rare opportunity to achieve a life-long dream.

"I think as a young boy, you're playing hockey because you want to win the Stanley Cup - you want to hoist the Cup. You want to score the game-winning goal in game 7, at least that's why I played," says Komet hockey legend Colin Chaulk. "And I think you want to represent your country. If you ever have any of those two opportunities, you're waiting for that call."

Ice hockey is one of the rare Olympic sports where paid professionals are brought together in some cases to play with their club team's foes against their own teammates.

"Playing for your club, obviously you have a lot of pride. It's your job. You're playing for your family. You're playing for your teammates. You're playing for your coach. When you're playing for your team, these are many things that you should be thinking about."

When it comes to international hockey, however, the stakes are different.

"When you're on the international level, you're playing for pride. You're playing for the guy that taught you to skate. You're playing for the person who drives a bus in your home country, the person who has a blue collar job the guy that sits behind a desk and is an IT guy. You're playing for all those people that are watching you and counting on you to win for them."

For the professionals representing their country in the Winter Olympics can be considered a highlight of their career. Every four years the National Hockey League's regular season stops so its players can take a break from playing for their clubs and play for their country.

And while the professional and international game is similar there are differences the players experience.

"The game is a lot different, there is not as much hitting, the width of the surface is larger, there is more puck possession. They kind of take the puck back instead of trying always continue to go north which is North American style. The athletes that are at the Olympic level they're the absolute best."

The United States' men's hockey team will face off against the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals on Wednesday at noon. That game will be broadcast on the USA network.

The women's team takes on Canada in the gold medal match on Thursday at noon. That game can be seen right here on NBC33.




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