COLUMBUS, Ohio – Rick Nash got a dose of reality just two days after achieving the proudest moment of his hockey career.
The 25-year-old native of Brampton, Ont., was back at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday night, just two days after helping Canada win an Olympic gold medal in Vancouver with a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory over the U.S.
After receiving his gold medal, Nash took a chartered flight to Columbus with Canadian teammate Roberto Luongo, who also plays goal for the Vancouver Canucks. Upon returning to Ohio, Nash attended a press conference, then suited up to play Vancouver.
The Canucks tarnished Nash’s whirlwind day, beating the Blue Jackets 4-3 in overtime.
But Nash said all of Tuesday was simply a blur and added rust on both the Jackets’ and Canucks’ game made for different type of hockey contest.
“Its been so busy, I haven’t even had a chance to unpack yet,” Nash said. “Hopefully, Ill go home now and relax a bit.”
The 14,513 fans at Nationwide greeted Nash with a standing ovation. But the gesture wasn’t close to the euphoric atmosphere Nash and his Team Canada teammates were part of throughout the Olympic hockey tournament in Vancouver, where they suited up against some of the world’s best players and often before a rabid partisan Canadian hockey crowd.
“The fans were unbelievable,” Nash said of his most lasting memory from the Olympics aside from winning the gold itself. “I’ve never played in a rink that was so loud.
“They were energetic for every game, no matter what they stayed behind us. It was an atmosphere that hopefully I’ll get to see again but it will be tough to top it.”
But the young Blue Jackets could hardly sum up the same vibe against the Canucks. Columbus led 3-2 in the third but the home crowd went quiet after Vancouver tied the game with just over five minutes left in regulation before Christian Ehrhoff scored the winner at 1:33 of overtime.
Nash had a quiet night, going pointless in just over 17 minutes of icetime. Former teammate Fredrik Modin, who was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday, can relate to the adjustment period required after winning such a huge game.
In 2006, Modin was a member of the Swedish team that won gold at the Torino Olympics. He said it definitely took him time to re-adjust to the grind of the NHL regular season.
“You’re obviously really tired because one day, you’re in one spot playing a final and the next day, you’re back trying to practise or play a regular-season game again,” said Modin. “The time in between, it’s not like you’ve been able to rest.
“You’re chasing flights and staying up late after the win.”
While Nash didn’t make an immediate impact in his post-Olympic debut, he did refrain from breaking out his gold medal upon his return. Nash wanted the team to focus on the Canucks and figured showing the hardware would be better left for another day.
The decision does show Nash’s maturation as a team leader, something that will only benefit from his Olympic experience. In Vancouver, Nash drew rave reviews for his defensive work on a line with Philadelphia Flyers captain Mike Richards and Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews.
The Olympics did show Nash has big-game ability and he craves more of that.
“Its easy to get up for big games,” Nash said. “Last year, when we (Columbus) were going down the stretch, every game meant so much, and then playing in the playoffs, as well.
“It’s fun to get up for those games. Its a matter of putting yourself in a good position so you get a chance to do that. That’s what we have to do here.”